Could a worker claim weekly compensation payments for a psychological injury that left him unable to work? Which case won?
Worker acquires psychological injury after being bullied by employer
A worker was recruited by an employer following a history of successful employment with multiple high-level companies. He was employed by the employer as a Senior Director, Product Marketing from December 2012 until July 2013.
During his employment, the worker alleged multiple difficulties with his immediate superior. He said that she bullied him, had a negative attitude towards him and criticised his work. She would not provide him with information to assist with his work, was rude to him in their conversations, and excluded him from conversations with other management staff and from meetings.
This treatment resulted in psychological injury to the worker. In January 2013, he began experiencing symptoms similar to vertigo, even while he was merely sitting at his desk. He also suffered from panic attacks and dizziness and would sometimes collapse.
On multiple occasions at work, he would struggle to get to the bathroom, having to lean on walls to get there, and eventually vomiting.
Worker has multiple jobs punctuated by periods of incapacity for work
In July 2013, the worker finished his employment with the employer.
He did not work again until March 2014, claiming that his psychological injury made him incapable of working.
In March 2014 he started contract work with another organisation, where he worked until July 2015, when his contract was terminated.
The worker did not work between July 2015 and April 2016, again claiming that his psychological injury made him incapable of working.
In April 2016, he commenced employment with a third organisation.
Worker lodges workers compensation claim
On 11 April 2016, the worker made a workers compensation claim, alleging that he had suffered a psychological injury during the course of his employment with the employer.
He sought weekly compensation benefits for the two periods during which he could not work. Period 1was from 1 December 2013 to 2 March 2014. Period 2 was from 1 October 2015 to 18 April 2016.
The worker claimed that he was entitled to this compensation under section 33 of the NSW Workers Compensation Act 1987, on the basis that he had suffered periodic total or partial incapacity for work resulting from his psychological injury.
Employer disputes worker’s claim and parties go to arbitration
The employer’s insurer accepted that the worker had sustained a psychological injury during the course of his employment.
However, the insurer did not accept that the worker had suffered total or partial incapacity for work.
The parties therefore went before an arbitrator at the Workers Compensation Commission to resolve this dispute.