Nursing home to pay harassed employee $435k

QUEENSLAND'S highest court has ordered Point Vernon nursing home TriCare to pay a former employee almost half a million dollars in damages after she was regularly harassed by a manager.

Robyn Elizabeth Eaton worked in an administrative position from 2007 until she resigned in 2010.

Ms Eaton took TriCare to court originally claiming $587,869 in negligence but the district court dismissed her claim after finding there was no relevant duty of care.

But she appealed this at the Queensland Court of Appeal and on Friday the court handed down its final decision in her favour.

The court judgment from Philip McMurdo said Ms Eaton had a constant excessive work load and that she said she was bullied when a manager started working at the nursing home in 2009.

Ms Eaton said her manager Jane Harrison's behaviour was offensive, intimidating, threatening and was repeated and deliberate and caused her a psychiatric illness, including depression and anxiety.

Ms Eaton claimed Ms Harrison allegedly once told her "nobody likes you anyway" and in another incident she said the manager told to her "I've never met anybody so stupid as you".

Justice McMurdo's judgment also said Ms Eaton claimed that when she tried talking to Ms Harrison about the way she spoke to her, Ms Harrison said "I will speak however I like" and told Ms Eaton to get over herself.

The district court found that Ms Harrison spoke in a way that Ms Eaton found aggressive and upsetting, but did not find that Ms Harrison had yelled.

The previous judge also found that Ms Harrison did not make the deliberately demeaning statement: "nobody likes you anyway".

Justice McMurdo said the previous judge who dismissed Ms Eaton's claim misunderstood the case.

He said the previous judge thought the case was about how Ms Harrison engaged in "intentional wrongdoing".

But Justice McMurdo said this was not what the case was about and that there was no allegation that Ms Harrison intended to cause Ms Eaton injury.

Justice McMurdo also said the previous judge found Ms Harrison did behave in a "harassing" manner towards Ms Eaton.

The justice said it was not a legal responsibility for TriCare to provide a happy workplace but that it did have legal responsibility to take reasonable care to avoid a risk of psychiatric injury to Ms Eaton.

"Reasonable care required that Ms Harrison not behave towards the appellant in a harassing and belittling fashion," Justice McMurdo said.

He found that the company did breach its duty through Ms Harrison's behaviour towards Ms Eaton and that this conduct, in the context of Ms Eaton's excessive workload, caused her psychiatric illness.

The court ordered TriCare pay Ms Eaton $435,583 in damages. - ARM NEWSDESK

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