Organisation slapped with pay out after claiming worker’s injury was result of “sneezing fit”

by Chloe Taylor02 Feb 2015
An Australia Post employee’s claim for compensation is due to proceed after the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) rejected the organisation’s claim that his back injury arose from a “sneezing fit”.

Senior tribunal member Jill Toohey found that the worker’s tasks at Australia Post had exacerbated an existing spinal condition, ruling that the organisation is liable to pay him compensation.

Vang Hung Chau was employed by Australia Post in 1990, and told the tribunal that he had been seriously injured during overtime work in 2012. He stated that this had occurred when he was moving ten kilogram trays, which ultimately led to him suffering a long-term spinal injury and taking two months off of work.

After inconsistent decisions from the organisation, Australia Post argued in November 2013 that Chau was no longer suffering from the effects of the injury – leading Chau to take his case to the tribunal.

During the tribunal, Australia Post claimed that Chau had obtained his injury from sneezing as he drove the morning after the incident. The organisation based this theory on notes from Chau’s GP, who he had visited that morning.

Chau’s solicitors requested that the GP revise his notes. The doctor’s revisions acted as proof that sneezing had not been the cause of Chau’s back pain.

Australia Post then presented evidence that the back injury was in fact over a decade old, claiming that the doctors’ reports used as evidence were inconsistent.

However, the judge accepted Chau’s team’s argument that if he was already on the way to the doctor when he had the alleged sneezing fit, he would already have been in pain.

Toohey also agreed that Chau was still suffering from the injury in November 2013, and ruled that his employment “contributed to a significant degree” to worsening a pre-existing condition.

SmartCompany reported that a spokesperson for the organisation said that Australia Post is “considering whether it has grounds to appeal” but that it is “too early to comment on the implications of this decision”.
 

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