A female librarian was shocked when she discovered her boss had
been secretly taking photos of her at work focusing on her breasts.
The man was her immediate superior and had covertly taken fourteen
photos of her.
Earlier she had suspected something was odd about his behavior
and raised her concerns with the library's human resources
manager. Some time later the HR manager and head of the library
called her in and told her what the man had been up to. They
defended the man to an extent, pointing out the photos were taken
in a public place and she was in her work clothes.
She demanded to see the photos and was sickened to find six of
the photos concentrated on her breasts, cutting out her head. She
felt humiliated and hurt.
She sought compensation for psychological injury. Doctor's
testified that as a result of sexual harassment in the workplace
she suffered an adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and
depressed mood. However WorkCover Queensland and the Queensland
Industrial Relations Commission ruled against her.
The commission ruled that even though the incident happened at
work, they were not satisfied the injury arose out of, or in the
course of, her employment. They ruled the workplace was merely the
place where the inappropriate behavior took place. Her employment
was not a "significant contributing factor" to her
psychological injury. The commission said the "significant
contributing factor" was the taking of the photographs by her
boss and "this had nothing to do with the employment"
The case suggests a tighter interpretation of the laws regarding
restitution for psychological injury in the workplace.
She was in the workplace when she suffered a psychological
injury due to inappropriate behaviour by her boss, yet she not
entitled to workers' compensation.
It raises questions about sexual harassment, discrimination and
bullying by work colleagues and bosses - are these now deemed to be
classified as being outside workplace laws and having nothing to do
with a person's employment?
It shows the importance of getting good legal advice to
determine whether you have a case. It can come down to the
definition of the degree of "contributing factor" in a
psychological injury. Under Queensland law employment has to be a
"major significant" factor contributing to the injury.
Under federal law an injury has to be contributed to a
"material degree" by employment. Under NSW law employment
must be a "substantial contributing factor" for an
It's complicated, so best get expert legal advice if you are
in this unfortunate position.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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Long experience representing many of Australia's leading employers has taught us that in employment litigation the identity of an employee's representative is a major factor in how employee litigation runs.
Australian employees receive certain entitlements (such as annual leave and superannuation) where contractors do not.
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