A worker at Lake Vermont mine near Dysart, who was accused of being a ‘peeping tom’ by Thiess management, has had his appeal for compensation upheld by the Queensland Industrial Relations Commissioner.
In April of 2013, Dysart police visited the Lake Vermont mining camp after a female employee at the mine complained to management that someone had been watching her as she showered in her donga.
An investigation by mine camp management led to a series of meetings with the accused worker who was then stood down from his shift and suspended on full pay for four days. When the worker returned to work he was reassigned to a different crew.
The disciplinary action was taken despite management conceding that they had no proof that the accused was the actual offender. The female employee did not formally identify the man and other evidence put forward by management was of a circumstantial nature.
According to the Commission decision, “…the allegations against (the worker) in relation to the “peeping tom” incident could not be substantiated however he was issued with a formal written warning for a breach of the Village Rules, namely the consumption of alcohol in the village after the 10.00pm curfew.”
In May of 2013 the worker applied for workers compensation for ‘psychological injury’ as a result of the ‘peeping tom’ accusations and subsequent disciplinary action. The worker claimed the injury arose as a result of, “being ostracised by fellow workers and staff; being falsely accused; and being victimised by HR and above (Thiess management).”
In handing down his decision, earlier this month, Deputy President O’Conner said he would uphold the original decision to award compensation to the worker as there was little evidence to suggest the initial investigation had been conducted fairly.
“The whole investigative process is peppered with failings which cannot, in my view,
be properly categorised as mere blemishes or minor imperfections,” O’Conner said.
“The investigation was so fundamentally flawed that (the worker) was denied procedural fairness.”
In particular O’Conner noted that during the investigation management had not followed procedures; had failed to advise the worker of the particulars of the allegations against him; did not provide the worker with a record of interview for his signature; did not provide the worker with sufficient time to respond and did not investigate the complaint fairly and impartially.
The appeal was dismissed and Thiess was ordered to pay the worker’s court costs.
A full transcript of the decision is available on the Supreme Court Library Queensland website.