Banter, horseplay, name calling and the risk of depression

Qantas Airways Limited (Frank Grisaffi) v Q-COMP

Qantas appealed the decision by Q-COMP, which set aside the decision of Qantas and accepted the claim for compensation.

The main contention by Qantas was the depressive condition was not work related and that employment was not a significant contributing factor.

The claimant contended the depression was caused by banter, name calling, practical jokes and horseplay between the workers over a number of years. The factual matrix was blended by the claimant having angina attacks requiring surgery and medication, together with the ‘late’ reporting of the offending conduct to the employer and the claimant’s participation or concurrence with the conduct complained of.

The magistrate accepted the evidence of the claimant and that it was plausible that he initially he did not complain and went along with it because he wanted to be “one of the boys”. In respect of the claimant’s perceived reasons for his depression to the doctors, the magistrate did not place much weight on them on the basis the claimant had little insight into his medical condition.

Ultimately, the magistrate found that by 12 months before the claimant left work he had communicated that he was no longer a willing participant in the ‘culture’ of the work place. On this basis the magistrate dismissed the appeal and found employment was a significant contributing factor.

Whilst the decision largely turns on the evidence and credibility of the witnesses it does highlight the miry waters for employers where such a ‘culture’ may be present, even when everyone ‘appears’ to willing participants.

Brisbane Barrister – David Cormack

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