A long-term Centrelink employee who clashed with her bosses during the robodebt scandal has staged her own legal battle and won.
A long-term Centrelink employee who clashed with her bosses during the robodebt scandal has staged her own legal battle and won.

Robodebt Centrelink staffer wins compo claim over bullying

A CENTRELINK employee who staged her own legal defence has proved she was psychiatrically injured at work after clashing with her bosses during the robodebt scandal.

The longstanding customer service officer lodged a bullying and harassment claim in August 2017 against four managers, alleging she was subject to "criticisms and interpersonal disputes" about her performance and was told not to record a customer's robodebt complaint.

She filed a worker's compensation claim two months later, saying she'd developed an adjustment disorder with anxiety after her bullying complaint was dismissed after a "deficient and unfair" investigation.

Her claim was rejected in March 2018, with the agency finding it wasn't liable to pay the compensation because even though her job "significantly contributed" to her illness, it arose from "reasonable administrative action taken in a reasonable manner".

A queue outside Centrelink Hobart. Picture: NIKKI DAVIS-JONES
A queue outside Centrelink Hobart. Picture: NIKKI DAVIS-JONES

The woman challenged the decision and represented herself at an Administrative Appeals Tribunal of Australia hearing in Hobart last November.

A doctor said the woman's adjustment disorder was partly caused by Centrelink giving her a "disciplinary" letter of expectation, which was later withdrawn, and the agency's processes "in relation to her efforts to assist clients".

But the doctor also noted an issue in the woman's personal life, as well as her "obsessional personality", had contributed to her condition.

Lawyers for worker's compensation authority Comcare argued the woman's illness was pre-existing, relying on another doctor who said the woman had been involved in 90 workplace incidents and suffered possible underlying depression.

Tribunal member Sandra Taglieri SC found in her decision that the woman had suffered from a recurrence of a pre-existing adjustment disorder, noting she was vulnerable given her "fastidious" and "obsessive" personality type.

However, she set aside Comcare's decision not to pay compensation after finding the woman didn't have an underlying personality dysfunction that could be classified as an ailment.

Ms Taglieri said her condition worsened after her bullying claim was not investigated properly, and her employer's decision not to take action was "tainted with the same unreasonableness".

Originally published as Robodebt worker wins compo claim


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