Monday, February 7, 2011

Workplace Bullying: Do employers have strategies to avoid stress claim payouts?

You feel you have no option other than the Workcover option. You have fought the workplace bully for what seems like an eternity. However, the problem remains. And, you get sicker with each passing day.

Whatever management says it is doing, is not working. Your doctor pulls the plug. Anxiety, depression, adjustment disorder...irrespective of the term, you are sick.

It was a gut-wrenching two years and seven months from my first complaint to my stress claim. Then I persisted with my war for a further six years before I felt compelled to resign.

As in my case, here in South Australia, the process begins with a Workcover Prescribed Medical Certificate (PMC) from a General Practitioner. This is what you attach to your Workcover Claim Form.

BOTH documents will detail your medical condition. Both will detail THE ALLEGED CAUSE.

And that, my friends, is when your worst unsuspected nightmare goes supersonic.

Put yourself on the management throne. By signing off on the Claim, legitimacy attaches to your declaration that your illness is directly linked to workplace bullying.

And if all goes your way - you actually survive - the only thing you have left to prove, in any legal arena, is that management sat back on its arse, as in my case, doing what it is very good at...nothing!

In my old workplace, the bully (now proven to have been a bully by a subsequent Disciplinary Inquiry) was one-down from the CEO. The Big Kahuna Number Two, the self-appointed deity who signed-off on EVERYTHING!

I was buggered, right from the get-go. It was like soliciting Caesar for a life membership of the RSPCA.

That sign-off does not happen overnight, or in the week after, or in the month after, or.........

The South Australian Public Service AND the inept State Government created my experiences. The department I toiled for, the Office of the Public Trustee, an agency under the Attorney-General’s Department umbrella, was and still is a self-insured entity.

The only good thing I have to say about the self-insured position, is that I avoided being managed by one of those independent, profit-driven insurance companies. From all accounts, that was a godsend, in relative terms anyway.

In my case, I was sent to a Psychiatrist of my employer’s choosing. Moreover, the report from that employer-paid-for expert was a medico-legal report. It was NOT a medical report. There is a difference. And, if you ever wind up in a witness box, you will realise the report was not obtained to help you, the injured worker.

N.B. You have the right to obtain a report from a specialist of your choosing.

Now, getting back to my legitimacy attachment comment. Even though co-workers were managing me, the process was, for the sake of better words, both backbreaking and stress making.

It was as though that much-needed sign-off was as elusive as fluffy ALF returning from Melmac looking for another garage to crash through.

It was as if my employer was being guided by some secret document. A ‘How to avoid stress claims’ type document.

Do such documents exist? HELL YEAH!

Not for the first time, I received one such document yesterday. Prepared by a Law Firm for a government agency. It needs to be read a few times in order to transform your mindset from that of an injured worker to that of a bushwhacker.

When I first read it, I could not quite get my mentally damaged psyche around it. I was looking for the benevolent bits. I was assuming the needs of the employee were a consideration on some level, any level.

Then it struck me. The guide I was reading has nothing to do with the wellbeing and the interests of the worker. The guide is the 2011 version of the 15th century Malleus Maleficarum, the Witch Hunter’s Bible.

Because, I’ll tell ya, you feel like you’re being led to the bloody stake as you wind your way through the sea  of constantly popping-up obstacles on a ‘Talking Heads’ road to nowhere.

After my employer received the first psychiatric report, management was pissed. Human Resources, at the request of Big Kahuna Number Two, yep, the bully himself, penned a response letter asking the Psychiatrist to RECONSIDER his findings!

I HAVE THAT LETTER. Yep, my employer, a government agency within the Department of JUSTICE!!!

The Psychiatrist said NO!

I have that response, and it sure does make interesting reading. I got the impression Sigismund 'Sigmund' Schlomo Freud was wondering what planet he was communicating with.

Now folks, back to the nefarious employer Stress Claim Avoidance Manuals (SCAM) I mentioned.

Here are some tantalising extracts from a few of the documents in my possession:

‘...obtain the necessary information if you later want to claim an exemption from the statutory requirement to provide ‘suitable employment to the worker...’

‘...obtain the necessary information required to dismiss the worker for incapacity in a legally effective manner...’

'...Dismissal by reason of disability is not unlawful if the worker is unable to perform their duties due to their disability...'


‘...if a private sector company and a Government department were found to have breached their safety duty for the same issue, the private company could be fined or prosecuted but the government department would be issued with a Notice of Non Compliance...’

I think it necessary to say that I do not believe all employers behave nefariously. I have knowledge of an  employer that dealt with the bullying problem decisively, and assisted the worker towards a full recovery.

Well...I know of one case.

Over the past few weeks, I have helped some people, people targeted by workplace bullies, people who are sitting at the crossroads, the same t-junction I found myself back in late-2002.

I turned right and filed a stress claim. I could have turned left, walked, and saved myself years of grief.

You are not the only one who will suffer. Factor in your family.

My best word of advice? HEALTH! Do not take on a system that is hell bent on self-preservation. Do not hop on that white horse if you know your health is on wobbly legs. It will not be worth it. Walk away. They are not worth it.

And, do yourself a huge favour. Google the word whistleblower. I doubt you will find a whistleblower who still has employment, who still has sanity, and who still has the life that was enjoyed before taking on the devil.

It is a cold world my friend. Take on bullying and the system, and it becomes a lonely world. Think carefully.

But.....would I do it again?     HELL YEAH!


Anonymous said...

Amazing this blog was amazing. Excellent work and/and also continue the good work. Thanks a lot for the article this works well for me personally

Anonymous said...

Rob. This is one of your best pieces. How the hell did you get on to that witch stuff? Though knowing you I'm not all that surprised.
Everything you say is spot on mate. I should know. I worked in justice. What a joke that was. I won't identify myself but you know me. We crossed paths many times during those years you took those bastards on. You were a total thorn in their sides. You did well and still have many supporters. Them sending you home toward the end was disgraceful. Claiming not to be able to find you any work. Keep up the great work. One of my friends has been to see you already and you have helped her to see the true path.
Cya Rob.

The Hooded One said...

Dont know how but I can still get around the 'Wall' and see your Blog.
Excellent story as usual. Well crafted with a neat sprinkling of eccentricity and humour. As you know we both have seen all sorts of wonderous documents that oozed from crown law. Nothing you state surprises me any more. They are a two faced mob. Looking forward to your next revelation(s).

In the government said...

I put my claim in a few months back and Im still waiting to see the specialist. I get the impression from what you say that I should get my doctor to send me to another one anyone. This wait is killing me. I was bullied for nearly a year and dont think I can keep going. I am sick of being sick and working for people that dont care for me. Now using my sick leave at home and nearly all gone. I cant go without money.

adelcomp said...

IN THE GOVERNMENT: View my PROFILE and click EMAIL, on the left. Contact me.

Anonymous said...

not suitable for re-employment? Hey Jerome Maguire Rob McKibbin is not only suitable for re-employment, but with what he knows he could:
A)be put in charge of worker's compensation for SA
B)be a consultant on bullying in PS
C)re-write your bloody manual on how to deal with claims for stress
D)weed out bullies from all government
after an investigation of each
C)instruct Parliament on how to really conduct an inquiry on how to get to the truth
D) provide expert advice on which employeee assistance programs models work and which are just window dressing
E)Rewrite how to justly deal with the bully and the victim.
So that the bully is not sent off in a stretch limmo to sun himself in Resorts-r-s with a wad of cash of drug dealer proportions.
While the victim is given a $2 voucher to spend at mcdonalds and an apologetic wave as he's bundled out the back door at midnight.
F) Rob write a comedy series on all this. Because it is a comedy of epic proportions. This government is a joke. So are their managers to deny you justice. I am sure there are thousands of snippets out there that could be woven into the stories.
Call it :'Can't of worms' because this government 'can't' do the things it should to act justly, and uses gutless 'worms' to undermine the truth tellers like you.

departments with a few

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ABC Matt and Dave Listener said...

Rob or is it Don Quixote. I used to love listening to you on ABC 891 radio friday mornings. I heard they flicked you but never found out why though after listening to your stuff I think I know why. You just say it like it is and I am pushed to find anyone who disagrees. Straight to the point and on the side of goodness and common sense. Please keep going as we really need people like you.

Anonymous said...

Interesting read. Great work in exposing system failings. I stumbled across another blog that seems to expose issues moreso with the health system is

Anonymous said...

Rob, I took on the bully and won and yes I work for the SA public service! Happy to have a chat sometime if you are interested

adelcomp said...

Well done!
Throw me an email.