Worker sent to 'naughty corner' compensated

CHRISTOPHER KNAUS
Last updated 13:05 29/05/2014

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An Australian federal public servant, who claimed she was put in the "naughty corner" for speaking out about low morale, has won a compensation battle over a tense meeting with her boss.

The woman began working as a special investigator at the Child Support agency under her manager in 2008.

The pair had a strained relationship early on, and she claimed he had poor people skills, showed favouritism, and was bad at giving positive feedback.

That lack of feedback, however, did not go both ways.

The woman didn't hold back from telling her boss what she thought and, in October 2009, let him know her team was suffering from poor morale.

He investigated and decided to move the woman's desk.

She viewed this as a punishment, believing she had been sent to the "naughty corner" and isolated from the rest of the team.

A year later, she told him she planned to resign.

That, she said, made her boss realise he was running out of time to "retaliate".

Tensions came to a head in September 2010, when a hastily scheduled meeting between the two took place over an old case she hadn't gotten rid of, despite her boss' instructions.

After the meeting, she filed a compensation claim, alleging it had triggered an adjustment disorder and anxiety.

Comcare said it was not liable, and the case came before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Both parties agreed the meeting triggered the psychiatric condition.

But they argued on whether the meeting constituted "reasonable administrative action taken in a reasonable manner in respect of the employee's employment".

If it was, Comcare would have been able to exclude the woman's compensation claim.

But tribunal senior member Bernard McCabe found the meeting was not in connection with her employment as opposed to, for example, reasonable appraisals, counselling, suspension actions, and formal and informal disciplinary actions.

He found Comcare to be liable.

He did accept the boss had not lost control or behaved badly towards his employee.

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- Sydney Morning Herald

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