CSIRO scientist awarded compensation for mental injury

by Chloe Taylor25 Aug 2015
A former CSIRO employee has won a bid for compensation after alleging in court that he was the victim of a “brutal campaign of bullying and harassment by CSIRO management”.

Moeraz Attalla, a former carbon science researcher, claimed that his manager’s behaviour led him to feel mentally “finished”.

Attalla was employed by CSIRO as a graduate in 1985, where he worked until 2007 “without any significant problems”.

According to documents, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) heard that issues began to surface when Dr Paul Feron was hired to work alongside Attalla.

It was explained that their working relationship did not improve “despite the efforts of other managers within the organisation”.

In 2010, Feron was promoted to a position which made him Attalla’s boss.

“I protested to management at the time that this was unreasonable action against me given our openly dysfunctional relationship but no action was taken to review the situation,” Attilla told the tribunal. “I also made complaints to my general practitioner, Dr Ali, about my stressful work situation around this time.”

Attalla also told the tribunal that in 2012, he asked Feron why he had been refused a trip to a conference in Abu Dhabi.

In response, Feron allegedly told Attalla to “go and have your heart attack at another conference”.

Attalla claimed that after this confrontation, things were never the same at work.

“I would come to work late, at around 10–11am, and spend a few hours reading emails and surfing the Internet,” he told the AAT. “I would then go to lunch with some of my colleagues and leave work at around 2 to 3pm.”

In October 2013, Attalla was made redundant. The following month he lodged a claim with Comcare for “clinical depression secondary to work related stress”.

Comcare refused Attalla’s claim, saying that the organisation’s actions had been reasonable.

During the AAT hearing, Comcare noted that Attalla had suffered a mental injury, but argued that it was the result of reasonable actions from CSIRO. These actions included the appointment of Feron as his boss, the refusal to send Attalla to certain overseas conferences, and the removal of his team leader status.

“We respect the decision of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, and the matter is between Comcare and Dr Attalla,” a CSIRO spokesman told HC.

“We also note no unreasonable actions or inappropriate actions on the part of CSIRO or its staff were found by the AAT.” 

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