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http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/AATA/2011/916.html

Compensation - psychological injury - whether injury or disease - whether reasonable administrative action taken in a reasonable manner


Background

The Applicant commenced employment with Telstra in 1998 and from 2003 worked in an executive assistant role for the Executive Director of Operations. In that role, the Applicant managed the Executive Director's diary, organised travel, arranged meetings and provided him with relevant information for those meetings, and performed other administrative tasks and she received favourable performance appraisals. In October 2009, the Executive Director took on an additional role while maintaining his original busy schedule following the resignation of a senior colleague. This led to additional workload and pressure on both him and the Applicant. The Applicant believed she was handing the extra workload well.

On 9 December 2009, the Executive Director called the Applicant into his office. The Applicant believes that he told her that she could not continue as his assistant and that she should consider transferring to an equivalent role working for a different executive director. Following the meeting, the Applicant suffered a suspected anxiety attack and was taken to the hospital but discharged on the same day. The Applicant did not return to Telstra and on 10 May 2010, tendered her resignation. The Applicant lodged a claim for compensation for depression/anxiety on 10 February 2010, which was denied.

Held

The AAT affirmed the decision under review.

Upon taking into account the preparation undertaken by the Executive Director and the reasons cited for the meeting, as well as the workplace agreement signed by the Applicant, the AAT found that the Executive Director's actions in calling the meeting and initiating the conversation with the Applicant constituted administrative action.

The AAT found that there was nothing unreasonable about a manager, who is concerned about an employee's wellbeing, seeking to discuss workloads and coping capabilities where there has been a significant increase in the duties attributable to the role. The AAT was satisfied that the administrative action which was responsible for the Applicant's injury was reasonable and was taken in a reasonable manner for the purposes of s 5A (1) of the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (Cth). For these reasons it decided that the Applicant's psychological condition was excluded from being an injury for the purposes of s 5A of the SRC Act and there was no liability to pay compensation under s 14 of the SRC Act.

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