June 16, 2017

Employer Liability and Workers Compensation | QLD

Psychiatric Injury In The Workplace - What role can CCTV footage play in a claim for compensation? 

State of Queensland (Department of Transport and Main Roads) v Workers' Compensation Regulator [2017] QIRC 054 -  the forensic value of CCTV footage  - the forensic damage of inconsistent versions - the “event” in the workplace must be real and not imaginary 

In State of Queensland (Department of Transport and Main Roads) v Workers' Compensation Regulator Vice President Linnane of the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (the Commission) set aside a decision of the Regulator that a psychiatric injury had been suffered in the workplace, in circumstances where the Commission found that  CCTV footage contradicted the Claimant's account of an adverse interaction between workers.

The Claimant was employed as a Principal Customer Service Officer (AO3 Classification) at the Department of Transport and Main Roads (the Department’s) Burleigh Waters Customer Service Centre (the Centre).

As the alleged “injury” was claimed to have occurred on 4 March 2016, and because the claim was in relation to a psychiatric or psychological injury, the Commission had to decide whether the Claimant's employment was "the major significant contributing factor" to her alleged  injury.

The Claimant alleged only one stressor as causing her injury – namely one, isolated, adverse interaction with a co worker.  The Claimant gave the following different versions:

1. she was physically intimidated in front of staff and a customer (application for compensation); she got the “fright of her life” when a co worker slammed paperwork down on her desk/scanner really loudly;

2. she was embarrassed in front of a co worker (version to co worker Ashley);

3. she got abused by senior staff for no reason (version to Dr Choy);

4. she was subjected to workplace harassment and workplace bullying ( version to Dr Choy);

5. she got abused by senior staff (version to Dr Choy);

6. “… all of a sudden someone slammed some paperwork down on my scanner really quite firmly, gave me the shock of my life. I nearly jumped out of my skin. I was – got quite a fright” (version in evidence in chief before the Commission).

After being shown CCTV footage the employer alleged was of the interaction the subject of the claim, the Claimant conceded that what was depicted on the CCTV footage would in “no way have given her a fright”. However, the Claimant contended that that CCTV footage was not of the actual interaction the subject of the claim.

The Commission found that the CCTV footage was of the interaction that was the subject of the claim.

Dr Chalk, psychiatrist, did not examine the Claimant but gave evidence that it was “nonsense” to suggest that what was on the CCTV footage would give rise to an acute stress disorder. Dr Choy, general practitioner, also conceded that if what actually occurred was what was depicted in the CCTV footage this would not have given rise to an acute stress disorder.

THE VICE PRESIDENT FOUND: 

[70] Mr McMillan, Counsel for the Regulator, referred me to the following passage in the decision of Hall P in Leigh Sheridan v Q-COMP

"In respect to psychological injury, there is an 'egg-shell psyche' principal which is the equivalent of the 'egg-shell skull' principle … So long as the events within the workplace are real rather than imaginary, it matters not that they impact upon the claimant's psyche because of a flawed perception of events attributable to a disordered mind …"

[71] However, as Dr Spry, Counsel for the Department submitted, the event in the workplace must be real rather than imaginary. In this instance the event was not the incident that Ms Teasdale described both in evidence and in her application for workers' compensation. Ms Teasdale herself said that if the event was as per the CCTV footage, she would not have got the fright of her life as she watched Mr Michailidis place the paperwork on her printer/scanner. Following the alleged incident, Ms Teasdale continued to serve her customer without any obvious effect of the interaction with Mr Michailidis.”

The employer's appeal was allowed.