Injured worker loses appeal over stressful working conditions

Injured worker loses appeal over stressful working conditions

The Court of Appeal has recently dismissed an appeal from a worker who suffered psychological injury as a result of a demanding, heavy workload.

The employee was originally hired as a Logistics Manager on a short term contract, and at the conclusion of the contract, was offered a full-time position as the Logistics Manager for Victorian and South Australian operations at a smallgoods company.

At trial, the injured worker gave evidence that he would sometimes work up to 18 hours a day and was given a laptop to take home to help him address emails and correspondence he did not have time for during the day. The extent of these duties was disputed by his employer, and was ultimately rejected by the Court.

After being unsuccessful in establishing negligence against his employer through the County Court, the worker appealed to the Court of Appeal of Victoria on numerous grounds, including that the trial judge had erred in not accepting that his conditions were a breach of contract and a breach of the employer's duty of care to him.

In dismissing his application, the Court of Appeal found that the employer was entitled to accept, at the time the worker accepted the full-time position, that he was capable and appropriately qualified to complete the necessary duties. According to the Court, the absence of any warning signs meant that the employer was entitled to assume that someone who enters into a contract of employment believes himself or herself to be capable of performing its duties .

Further, once the worker had accepted the position, the absence of any material available to the employer which would have alerted it to a specific risk of psychiatric injury after they had accepted the position meant that the employer could not be held responsible for the worker's subsequent psychological injury.

If you or someone you know has suffered an injury as a result of their work, we invite you to contact one of our WorkCover experts on (03) 9321 9988 to discuss your potential entitlements.

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