In this matter, the worker, Ms Finelli, unsuccessfully challenged the decision of the insurer’s agent, Employers Mutual Limited (EML), to reject her workers’ compensation claim arising from a psychological injury in her employment with ARA Manufacture Pty Ltd (ARA).
Prior to commencing with ARA, Ms Finelli was employed by Woodpend Pty Ltd (Woodpend), where she was promoted from Estimator to General Manager. During her employment with Woodpend, Ms Finelli and her husband purchased shares in the company in the amount of $200,000. This investment was lost when Woodpend subsequently went into administration. ARA purchased assets from Woodpend, and Ms Finelli accepted an offer to transfer her employment to ARA as an Estimator.
During her employment at ARA, Ms Finelli kept a personal diary where she documented various incidents, including alleged unfair criticism and humiliation by her manager, whom she asserted reviewed her work and often increased the profit margins on projects, with which Ms Finelli disagreed. She also claimed that she was exposed to inappropriate sexual innuendo at work, and that she had been fearful of redundancy throughout her employment. Ms Finelli asserted that all of these incidents significantly contributed to her psychological injury.
Ms Finelli made a claim for a psychological injury arising from her employment at ARA, which was rejected by EML. Ms Finelli disputed the rejection, which proceeded to the South Australian Employment Tribunal (the Tribunal) for judicial determination.
Despite keeping records of the incidents which she asserted gave rise to her psychological injury, the Tribunal found that Ms Finelli was not a credible witness and determined that she had lied multiple times in her evidence. It held that the incidents were not supported by the evidence and they were inconsistent with evidence from the ARA’s witnesses. In particular, the Tribunal noted it was “unusual in the extreme” that Ms Finelli’s diary in which she was “picking faults with management and other employees of ARA” commenced on the first day of her employment, and was read as “foreshadowing a potential claim against her employer”. The Tribunal found Ms Finelli had “demonstrated a persistent willingness to engage in deceit to obtain personal and financial advantage”.
Notwithstanding these findings, based on the evidence of medical witnesses, the Tribunal found that Ms Finelli suffered a psychiatric injury. However, it found that the financial losses and loss of her job and status as General Manager at Woodpend were the significant causes of the injury, rather than her employment at ARA. It also found that the manager’s interactions, including the checking of estimates and giving direction about pricing, were reasonable administrative action taken in a reasonable manner (which is an exception to the acceptance of a claim arising from psychological injury), and that Ms Finelli had persistently pursued a voluntary redundancy, rather than being fearful of it. As such, Ms Finelli’s application was dismissed, and the decision to reject the claim was upheld.