Aboriginal child care worker wins stress leave dispute
A Tasmanian Aboriginal child care worker has won a workers' compensation stoush after his colleague asked a mother if she felt safe in a car with him, causing him to burst into tears and go home on stress leave.
The man, employed by a state government-run Devonport child care centre, was instructed to go home when he became "distressed and emotional" in August last year.
The Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Tribunal of Tasmania, in a decision just released, said the state government did not have a "reasonably arguable case" to dispute its ongoing liability to pay the man workers' compensation.
Acting Chief Commissioner Lucinda Wilkins said one of the centre children's mothers told the man - who was in a relationship with another mother at the time - that his new co-worker asked her if she felt safe driving home with him.
The man told a psychiatrist he kept good working relationships, but the new co-worker had joined his team and "he felt she was hostile towards him" and wanted his job, but did not have an indigenous background, as required by the role.
He said there had been talk at work about him "having an affair and being a predator", which died down.
The man told his boss that at a work get-together, his new colleague said he was not allowed to drive certain people home - a requirement of the role - and he realised that "there was something going on".
The man spoke to the centre manager the following day, telling her what the mother had told him, becoming distressed as he realised his reputation, values and professional behaviour had been called into question.
The psychiatrist noted the man had some pre-existing personality vulnerabilities, but the doctor believed he'd developed an adjustment disorder with anxiety and low mood as a result of the episode.
Commissioner Wilkins ordered the state government to continue paying the man his workers' compensation entitlements.