Workplace bullying: massive damages ordered against employer

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The Supreme Court of Victoria has awarded $625,000 in damages for a psychiatric injury held to have been caused by an employer failing to have appropriate policies and procedures to manage bullying and harassment in the workplace. The cause of action was negligence. In Wearne v State of Victoria (2017) VSC 25 a worker who was employed as a case manager at the Department of Human Services alleged that she had sustained an aggravation of a pre-existing adjustment disorder due to bullying and harassment by her supervisor and that:

  • from at least 4 March 2005, the employer knew or ought to have known that she was vulnerable to psychiatric injury as she had reported her condition and, as a result of which, she had been transferred to another office
  • she was provided with a reduced workload and underwent counselling after her transfer
  • her new supervisor was made aware of her previous issues but treated her “unkindly, unfairly and was bullying her”, and
  • the employer failed to take reasonable steps to stop the injury from occurring and/or deteriorating.
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