Employers should always display procedural fairness when dealing with employees
A successful WorkCover appeal highlights the need for employers to practise procedural fairness in all dealings with employees. Failure to do so may impact the validity of management decisions made separate to disciplinary or termination situations.
The appeal involved a Support Worker (the Appellant) employed by a not-for-profit organisation, the Young Women’s Support Worker at Community Action Inc (Community Action).
The Appellant claimed that she suffered a psychiatric or psychological injury on 13 April 2018 as a consequence of a meeting held with her Manager, during which an email was read out to her from the CEO of Community Action.
The meeting followed an incident the previous day in which the Appellant apparently had been involved in an interaction with police officers regarding an unidentified indigenous man outside her workplace. The email from the CEO effectively stated that she had acted inappropriately during the incident.
The Appellant commenced sick leave on 17 April 2018 and claimed she had suffered a psychological injury arising from the meeting and had been unable to work. The injury was diagnosed initially by her treating General Practitioner and confirmed by her psychiatrist.
The regulator rejected her initial claim for WorkCover.
In the successful appeal, Industrial Commissioner Jacqueline Power identified significant deficiencies in the treatment of the Appellant by Community Action. These included:
Requiring the Appellant to attend a meeting with her Manager without any prior knowledge or warning of the agenda of the meeting;
Conducting the meeting behind closed doors without prior warning to the Appellant;
Not offering the Appellant the opportunity to have a support person present; and
By reading the email to her, they effectively disciplined her by condemning her alleged behaviour in the incident without reasonably considering her responses and inferred she had breached the organisation’s Code of Conduct.
In granting the appeal, Commissioner Power noted, “(the CEO) did not engage in reasonable management action in that she did not provide the Appellant with an opportunity to respond to the complaint and made a decision as to the appropriateness of the Appellant’s conduct prior to allowing the Appellant to be heard on the matter”.
We work with management teams coaching them on procedural fairness, providing timelines and advising that time is your friend in assisting you to make reasonable, informed and balanced decisions.
For questions about procedural fairness, WorkCover claims, or other employment questions, please contact Dean Cameron at Workforce Advisory Lawyers – We Know Employment Law on 1300 WAL LAW, 0417 622 178 or via email to email@example.com
Disclaimer: This information is provided as general advice on workplace relations and employment law. It does not constitute legal advice, and it is always advisable to seek further information regarding specific workplace issues. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.