In a recent Victorian case, it was confirmed that an employer was negligent for failing to counsel and mediate when it knew that a fraught relationship between employees was causing a deterioration in the psychological condition of one of them.
A trades teacher employed by the Box Hill TAFE, brought a case in the Supreme Court claiming damages for a psychological injury brought about by the treatment he received from a supervisor, over time and in twelve separate incidents. The teacher suffered from depression. Medical certificates of capacity given to the Box Hill TAFE by the teacher, made it clear that his psychological condition was deteriorating as a result of his relationship with his supervisor.The supervisor did not know that the teacher was suffering a Psychological condition that was at risk of deteriorating as a result of the relationship between the two. After the final, twelfth incident, which involved the supervisor having ‘blasted’ the teacher, the teacher was unable to work, and his lifestyle and enjoyment of past times were significantly affected.
In the Supreme Court decision handed down in December 2014, Justice Jack Forrest dismissed the teacher’s claim that he had been constantly bullied and harassed over a period of time and also found that he was a “totally unreliable and unsatisfactory witness."
However, Justice Forrest went on to find that the Box Hill TAFE should have taken action to prevent the teacher’s condition from deteriorating as a result of the final, twelfth incident, by giving the supervisor information about the teacher’s condition, and by counselling both and conducting a mediation. Failure to intervene in this way, the court held, was negligent and the teacher was entitled to damages for the pain and suffering he had experienced and for loss of earnings occasioned by not being able to work. For his psychological injuries the Court awarded $110,000 in pain and suffering damages and $122,000 for loss of earnings. The teacher also claimed damages for spinal injuries and was awarded $125,000.
The Court of Appeal upheld the original Supreme Court decision and the decision, handed down on 10 September can be found at:http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/vic/VSCA/2015/245.html
If you would like to discuss this decision or if you would like to know whether an employer may have negligently caused a psychological injury in a particular set of circumstances please contact Penny on 97751371 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org