Author Archives: Bonita Nichols

Case Alert: January 2018

Welcome to our new case alert. Each month we will bring you a summary of a case we think may be relevant to you. This month’s case alert will provide guidance to you on issues you may face in the workplace, particularly around social media and cyber-bullying.

Lorna Jane worker loses $570K claim over alleged Facebook bullying

A Lorna Jane employee with a pre-existing personality disorder has failed in her $570,000 bid to hold the retailer liable for a manager’s Facebook spray and alleged bullying she claimed triggered her condition.
The store manager of Lorna Jane’s DFO store in Skygate, Brisbane, claimed her supervisor, the retailer’s learning and development manager, bullied her from July 2012 until her doctor put her on stress leave that December.
The store manager alleged the development manager called her “cheap”, a “generator” and other names on Facebook, made disparaging comments about her weight and was dismissive.
In one Facebook post, the development manager said she called “the people I despise” generators “purely because they fill their days generating more problems for me to deal with” and noted they were “similar to mutants – people who are genuine oxygen thieves”.
In another post, she said it was “difficult to soar with the eagles when your [sic] surrounded by turkeys”.
The store manager claimed Lorna Jane Pty Ltd was liable for her psychiatric injury because it was vicariously liable for the store manager’s behaviour.
It was also directly liable for the alleged actions, she claimed, because it was “on notice” after an email in which a resigning worker said the development manager gave the store manager a “hard time”.
Seeking $570,000 as damages for negligence, she also claimed lifting heavy boxes caused her incapacitating external haemorrhoids.

However, Queensland District Court Judge Greg Koppenol dismissed her application, finding she was “a most unreliable witness” and the evidence did not support her bullying claims or the alleged consequences.
He said when the store manager alerted a Lorna Jane senior officer to the posts, the retailer immediately made the development manager remove them, removed the store from her control and changed the reporting structure.
Judge Koppenol also rejected her submission that Lorna Jane was vicariously liable because it had an anti-bullying policy acknowledging the significance of bullying via social media.
Finding the development manager had not targeted her, he said there was also no evidence the “personal posts on her personal Facebook page” were made with Lorna Jane’s permission, were known by Lorna Jane to have been made at all or were made in the course of, or incidental to, her employment.

No proven causation

In dismissing her application on the basis she failed to establish direct or vicarious liability, Judge Koppenol said had she succeeded, she would also have needed to establish causation on the basis that the psychiatric injury risk was foreseeable and not insignificant; and if Lorna Jane had warned and appropriately counselled her, this “probably would have protected her from psychiatric injury”.

He said there was no reason for Lorna Jane to suspect the store manager was at risk of psychiatric injury, noting an employer was “not expected to be a mind reader” and that the woman “portrayed herself as confident and experienced” to get the job.
Psychiatrists’ evidence also found that due to her mixed personality disorder, removing workplace stresses would not necessarily have protected her because she “could have developed her psychiatric condition at any time and … independently of the things that allegedly happened at work”.

Robinson v Lorna Jane Pty Ltd [2017] QDC 266 (3 November 2017)

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Smart Recruitment Just a Click Away

Welcome 2018!

Some of us may be returning back to work this year, with the important task of recruiting new team members.

Finding talent in this technologically advanced society has gone beyond placing an ad on Seek.

Social media cannot be ignored as an avenue for connecting with prospective employees.

Employers should consider all available options and plan a recruitment campaign to attract the right talent for their organisation.

Here are some simple helpful tips:

1. Think outside the norm. Seek is essential but what about Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as other alternatives? It’s in your best interest to find out how these platforms could work for your business.

2. Don’t forget to talk to people about the role you have available. There’s nothing like word of mouth advertising to get the ball rolling.

3. Make your advertisement stand out. Provide enough detail to pique the interest of a prospective candidate – how great it is to work at your organisation, location, skills required, salary package etc.

4. Follow up leads found on social media. Technology alone is not going to cut it. Contact prospective candidates and be prepared with some simple questions that will quickly sort the ‘wheat from the chaff’. An A+ profile page may not translate to an A+ employee.

Getting recruitment right the first time will save your business a lot of time and money.

Investing some thought and effort into the process will reap rewards for your organisation.

If you require assistance or support in recruiting new staff members for your team, please contact us, we will be more than happy to help.

Work Christmas Parties

Christmas is fast approaching and with that in mind we need to consider our policies regarding employee behaviour during the silly season.

Your employees have worked hard throughout the year and it’s time to let down your hair and celebrate your achievements.

However, the staff Christmas party isn’t an open invitation to disregard what you would consider to be unacceptable behaviour at any other time of the year.

You have a duty of care to your employees to ensure they are safe and your business reputation is upheld.
No-one wants to be the Grinch but your workers need to know very clearly what is and isn’t appropriate, and understand fully any consequences of stepping over the line.

Remember, just because it may be being held off-site, it is still a work function and work policies still apply.
Employers open themselves up to a variety of claims, including bullying and harassment, if they are not careful. You are still legally responsible for their conduct.

Responsible alcohol consumption should be enforced at any function and you should ensure your workers are able to get home safely.

It’s also worth reminding your staff that just because the end of the year is approaching doesn’t mean jobs are rushed and safety goes out the door. Don’t let simple tasks turn into injury claims.

Do you have a policy in place covering work functions and appropriate worker behaviour or do you need guidance in this area?
Human Outsource can help you. Contact Us for more information on how we can assist you.

From all the team here, we wish you, your workers and your families a very happy and safe Christmas and a productive 2018.

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