Traumatised bushfire survivor was 'pressured' to work

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Traumatised bushfire survivor was 'pressured' to work

A Victorian worker, who narrowly survived the Black Saturday bushfires, was continually harassed by her boss in the aftermath to return to work, a Tribunal has found.

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A Victorian worker, who narrowly survived the Black Saturday bushfires, was continually harassed by her boss in the aftermath to return to work, a Tribunal has found.
 
Employed by the Aitken Hill Conference Centre, the Humevale resident (near burnt out Kinglake) watched from her home as the fire destroyed her car and water tank before the wind changed the fire’s direction.
 
While the next door neighbour's house ‘exploded’, hers was spared, and she and her housemate survived.
 
The following evening, and for the next four nights, the worker received a call from her boss pressuring her to return to work.
 
The worker came in on the Thursday after the fires, but told her boss she was ‘quite dehydrated’ and ‘not feeling her best’.
 
Her boss then told her she looked ‘terrible’ and to ‘go have a shower’. After more protests from the worker, the boss said: ‘Look ... I’ve been watching it on TV; I’ve been affected too. I’ve been affected by what I’ve seen, yet I still came in.’
 
After taking a shower, the worker told her boss she ‘just couldn’t do this’ and went home. She was dismissed three months later.
 
Discrimination alleged
 
The worker brought a claim against Aitken Hill, alleging she had been discriminated against due to her psychological distress from the near-death experience.
 
The claim also included evidence that she had been sexually harassed by a male employee on several occasions (inappropriate touching) and that her boss had flaunted a sex toy in front of her.
 
Claims proved
 
Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal senior member, Rohan Walker, found the worker’s boss had ‘harassed’ her until she returned to work following the bushfires.
 
‘By all of this conduct she imposed upon the complainant (worker) a condition that she return to work when she was unfit, and so unable, to do so,’ Walker said.
 
The senior member also upheld the claims of sexual harassment against the male worker and her boss. A claim that her eventual dismissal was discriminatory was rejected.
 
Walker ordered Aitken Hill pay the worker $3500 and the boss pay $1500 in compensation.
 
 
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