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Employer found to be directly and vicariously liable for District Chief Executive's bullying

Robinson v Cape York Hospital and Health Service [2017] QSC 165

Henry J Supreme Court

8 August 2017

Background

The Plaintiff had been employed as the District Director of Nursing and alleged she was subjected to a course of mistreatment by the District Chief Executive Officer, Ms Turner.

Ms Robinson alleged there were a number of episodes and failures at the workplace during a period of about one year. However the principal complaint was Ms Turner's failure to take timely action in relation to complaints by another employee about Ms Robinson.

Ms Robinson learned about these complaints through another employee but Ms Turner would not tell Ms Robinson what the substance of the complaint was until some eight weeks later.

The particular employee who complained about Ms Robinson had long been a course of problems and Ms Turner was aware of this and should have been aware of the impact on Ms Robinson.

There were also a number of other complaints about Ms Turner's attitude, behaviour and treatment of the Plaintiff. This included rebuking her loudly and aggressively at a workshop in front of all attendees, failing to include her in relevant meetings, publicly contradicting her and removing responsibility.

Judgement

The Judge did not accept any of Ms Turner's evidence. He found that it was quite apparent that Ms Robinson was becoming affected by Ms Turner's treatment and was accordingly on notice. In fact Ms Robinson spoke with Ms Turner about the problems she was having on a number of occasions. Responses from Ms Turner included 'it's all in your head'.

Ms Turner's role as the CEO made, attributing knowledge to the Defendant, compelling. The employer was both directly liable and also vicariously liable for Ms Turner's behaviour described by the Judge as a course of managerial mistreatment, humiliation, undermining and isolation.

Ms Robinson was awarded over $1.4 million.