Employee lost 17kg due to workplace bullying

A worker who suffered depression, anxiety and nightmares because of bullying will receive compensation from Comcare, who originally rejected her claim.

Employee lost 17kg due to workplace bullying
Government insurer Comcare has been ordered to pay compensation to a Centrelink employee who claimed she was bullied and humiliated by her new managers after returning to work from maternity leave.

Amanda Kosteski claimed workers’ compensation after being diagnosed with depression and anxiety and suffering a loss of appetite, which led to her losing 17kg in just three months.

Her claim was rejected, so she took her case to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, which found that her depression had stemmed from her employment and Comcare had to pay compensation.

Kosteski told the tribunal that when she returned to work in mid-2010, she was subjected to bullying which included her manager standing over her while she sat at her desk, bring belittled and humiliated in team meetings and being “interrogated” about her personal life every six weeks when her part-time hours were reviewed.

Although she was seconded to two other offices on a temporary basis, she was told in late 2012 that she would have to return to her original post, which caused her “significant stress”.

Her doctor diagnosed her as suffering from depression and anxiety and certified her unfit to work for a week.

From then on, Kosteski did not return to work for 11 months on the basis of medical certificates from her GP and other specialist advice and only began a return-to-work program in October 2013.

She applied for workers’ compensation but a delegate of Comcare decided it was not liable, on the grounds that it was a result of reasonable administrative action carried out in a reasonable manner.

However, tribunal member Robin Handley wrote that Kosteski was a credible witness and that her employment contributed to her condition to a “significant degree”.

“Nobody appears to have taken responsibility at the appropriate time for assisting an employee who was showing clear signs of distress. Action was taken by Centrelink to address the problem subsequently but by that stage the damage had been done. I note the expert witnesses commented on the poor workplace handling of her situation,” Handley wrote.

 - View this week’s HCTV for more information on spotting the danger signs of a psychologically distressed employee
 

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