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Toxic Workplace Fined $379,157.00 For Employee Fatality

Toxic Workplace Fined $379,157.00 For Employee Fatality

Court Services Victoria (CSV) recently pleaded guilty for breaching section 21(1) of the Occupation Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) for failing to provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to health where it was alleged that the toxic workplace culture of CSV contributed to an employee suicide.

It was alleged that from December 2015 to September 2018, workers of CSV within the Coroners Court were exposed to:

  • traumatic materials;
  • role conflicts;
  • high workloads;
  • competing work demands;
  • poor workplace relationships; and
  • inappropriate workplace behaviours.

During this time, multiple complaints were made by the workers which included:

  • allegations of bullying;
  • favourtism;
  • cronyism;
  • verbal abuse;
  • derogatory comments;
  • intimidation;
  • invasion of privacy; and
  • threats to future progressions.

Numerous workers of CSV reported feelings of anxiety, PTSD, stress, fear and humiliation and did not return to the workplace after going on personal leave. The in-house solicitor Ms Jessica Wilby was one of those workers who went on three months personal leave during which she was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and subsequently took her own life in September 2018.

In sentencing, CSV was convicted and fined $379,157.00 for breaching the OHS Act and was also ordered to pay $13,863.00 in legal costs.

Magistrate Walsh in sentencing noted that:

  • the gravity of the breach was significant and the culpability was high.
  • But for CSV pleading guilty and the jurisdictional limit of the Court, he would have fined CSV $700,000.00.

In the Work Safe Victoria Press Release, they provided the following recommendations for employers to prevent work-related mental injuries:

  • ‘Promote a positive workplace culture that encourages trust, respectful behaviours and quality communication.
  • Consult with employees when identifying and assessing any risks to their psychological health and determining the appropriate control measures.
  • Implement policies and procedures for reporting and responding to psychosocial hazards such as workplace trauma, bullying, interpersonal conflict, violence and aggression; and reviewing and updating risk controls following any incidents.
  • Regularly ask employees how they are, encourage them to discuss any work-related concerns and, where required, implement suitable support and controls.
  • Have systems in place for workforce planning and workload management to ensure that employees have sufficient resources and a realistic workload.
  • Develop skills for leaders through coaching, mentoring and training to improve the support of employees.
  • Seek and act on feedback from employees during any organisational change process.
  • Inform workers about their entitlements if they become unwell or unfit for work.
  • Provide appropriate and confidential channels to support workplace mental health and wellbeing, such as Employee Assistance Programs.’

For more information see – Court body fined almost $380,000 for deadly work culture | WorkSafe Victoria

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