WORKER WHO CLAIMS SHE WAS POISONED AT WORK NOT UNFAIRLY DISMISSED

A recent case before the Industrial Relations Commission in NSW found that an employer had not unfairly dismissed a worker who had claimed she was poisoned at work.

The Applicant worked for the Pathology Department of a Western Sydney Hospital.  At the time of her dismissal by the Respondent (the hospital) she had worked in the pathology department for 3 years.

The Applicant applied for a position within the hospital but the successful applicant for that position was someone else.  Prior to the interviews for the position, the Applicant alleged that she had been advised by a work colleague that she knew the successful applicant would get the position because “you have to pay money to receive a promotion”.

Later that year, the Applicant applied for another promotion but was unsuccessful.  Shortly, thereafter the Applicant made a complaint to her supervisor that there was corruption occurring within the Department.  The failure of the Applicant to obtain a promotion had apparently triggered that Applicant’s perception of corruption.  A meeting was arranged with the General Manager of the hospital who requested that an investigation of the Applicants complaint be carried out.

Several months later the Applicant was informed that her complaint had been investigated and no evidence was found to substantiate the claims.  A few days later, while at work, the Applicant complained of shortness of breath, chest pains, nausea and a burning tongue after eating her lunch.  The Applicant told her manager that she thought she had been poisoned and she was taken for blood tests which proved normal.  The Applicant commenced an extended period of sick leave which continued up to her termination.

In the interim, the Respondent sought a review of the Applicant’s employment referring her for a psychiatric assessment.    The psychiatrist made a diagnosis of delusional disorder and concluded that a return to work would not be in her interests as it would exacerbate her problems.   The Respondent offered to assist that Applicant with psychiatric assistance.  The Applicant declined and thereafter the Respondent dismissed the Applicant from her employment.

The Applicant made an application to the Commission alleging unfair dismissal.  In deciding that the Applicant was not unfairly dismissed, the Commission said:

“I have no doubt that the Applicant is sincere in her belief that she can return to work and work normally with her previous colleagues as I believe she is capable of making a genuine effort to do so.  Nevertheless, I do not accept that the working relationship can be restored to what it was prior to the commencement of the whole unfortunate incident of innuendo.

In the absence of any written or oral evidence before the Commission proving the allegations made by the Applicant, the Commission cannot find that the actions taken by the Respondent were either unfair, unjust or unreasonable.

The Respondent had no other choice available to it.  I accept that the Respondent went above and beyond the call of duty to assist the Applicant to obtain assistance.  Obtaining assistance with a matter that is preying on one’s mind does not make one a “mental case” as the Applicant seems to think.  If the Applicant had agreed to obtain assistance to deal with the issue that was preying on her mind since missing out on the promotions, the parties may not have reached the point where cessation of the employment relationship was the only option.”