Bullying, harassment, intimidation, assault, haranguing, isolation, disempowerment, flashbacks? Read this
Case history #102
For over 30 years I taught classes ranging from Pre Primary through to Primary, Secondary, TAFE and University level. For the latter 10 years I was also involved in counselling of students at post-secondary level, and doing psychotherapy and training in private practice as well.
On the first teaching day of 2003, I was run at from behind, forcibly grabbed by hands dug deeply into my shoulders, spun around sharply 60 degrees, and with clenched hands held at neck and face level, I was berated by my manager, despite my bursting into tears and asking her to stop. I froze, totally immobilised and in a time warp. (This unfortunately caused me, for the next 18 months, to have constant daily and bedtime flashbacks, with every detail of her hands clenching me and her facial gestures recorded in picture form). She then followed me into my office and cornered me, continuing to harangue me for a further 25 minutes, before she went to teach her class … her first for 18 months as she was seconded elsewhere into a higher management position, and I had been acting in her position as a coordinator … of all places for this to happen.
Being in shock, my reaction was to virtually hide in my office in case anyone saw how upset I was, especially all the new students. However, I phoned out for debriefing by a psychologist with the Employee Assistance Program, and a colleague, and my husband. After bluffing my way through a class I then re-grouped and sought advise about the nature of the attack and strategies to deal with the shock. Both the Union and the Education Department described the attack as assault. My injuries were neck and shoulder soft tissue damage plus acute stress and psychological distress.
Upon meeting with District Office Management and being advised to make a police report and seek a workers compensation first medical from my GP, I made an Incident Report to the Principal. Interestingly, the manager who attacked me did not make one, until after mine was read by the Principal several days later. Instead, the day following the assault, she scoffed at me saying, “It’ll be my word against yours, and he’ll (the Principal) believe me over you.”)
This was the day I gained a look into the world of subterfuge, collusion, corruption, and Protection Plus for the Perpetrator (PPP); my perspective on life changed, and I entered a new chapter, that of being systematically victimised by the key players whose prime task seemed to be to hold the image of the Education Department in place, and avoid any bubbles. For a period of six weeks, I was subjected to daily intimidation, harassment, disempowerment, isolation and discrimination, by both the Principal and my line manager, forcing me to leave (I brought forward elective surgery to avoid going on Compo.) due to verbal and non-verbal torment, completely unable to continue teaching or counselling, and at the point of near collapse.
Meetings held at school level, with knowledge of District Office, did not follow proper procedure of having an agenda, taking notes and making of minutes, hence I was denied natural justice. Nor was anything signed off by all parties and nor was any agreement or resolution reached. I was ordered by the Vice Principal to” go back to work, obey the chain of command, and never speak of the incident again.”
With my Statutory Declaration and Sworn Affidavit, I naively expected justice in the form of an apology and acknowledgement from management as to what had happened to me, through no fault of my own. One doesn’t “deserve” this treatment.
Meanwhile, Departmental resources were building a case against me, with the Department’s Insurer persuading a psychiatrist of their choice to present a factually incorrect and totally misleading report which slammed my case and denied me workers compensation.
The psychiatrist outright lied (obviously with support and protection from the insurer), to both Work Cover and the Medical Board, in saying that she did not have the defendant’s Statutory Declaration in her possession when she consulted with me, even though she drew her questions from this document, and referred to it in full view on her desk where I was able to read the large heading. Diagnosing Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety, and prescribing relocation as the best possible prognosis, I put my trust in the powers-that-be to sort out this mess.
Not so. For the rest of the school year, I was not paid wages even although I had a fixed-term contract till December. With no work and no money, plus deteriorating health which escalated into PTSD, I fought the psychiatrist’s report, and the Private Investigator’s report, to no avail because the Department had mobilised forces with the Insurer, the College, District Office, Central Office, and even the teachers union, all conspiring to wall me out, and no offers of redirected employment, despite my GP declaring me fit for work.
The Department’s Rehabilitation Officer and College Principal worked together and somehow had the power to override my GP’s report. I was sent to the Education Department’s Occupational Physician, thus taking up a further three months with no pay, and significantly contributing to my distress.
Even at a Case Conference involving representatives from all parties, belatedly convened by the Department some 9 months after the incident, minutes were not taken and the Occupational Physician overrode my GP, saying I was fit for less hours of work per week than the doctor who had seen me fortnightly for 8 months … and this conclusion reached without him even taking case notes, as I later found out through Freedom of Information.
Upon starting proceedings for Constructive Dismissal, I was suddenly offered a month’s work in December, which was not labelled as a “work trial”, but served to avoid Industrial Relations action against the College and Education Department.
The teachers union lawyers sent me to Work Cover with only one doctor’s report, which I had organised, and Nil witnesses. They refused to bat for one member against another, and were merely seen to be doing something, whereas in fact, they were part of the collusion and mobbing, and failed to protect me.
At the end of the year the Education Department thought they were free of me by officially casting me as "Unemployed" and a statement of "there is no work for you." But no. Innocence finds a voice even amongst evil.
With new legal representation, I began the quest for justice all over again. In 12 months, no one had mentioned that I would need medico-legal reports to go through Work Cover. Surely that was the responsibility of the Union lawyers?
For 18 months I have had my medical records of the past 15 years exposed and shared with third parties, at times both the Government Insurer and my income protection insurer doing so illegally, without my consent and authority. I have been accused of "fraudulent misrepresentation" by one insurer, although they refuse to charge me with this so I can defend it under oath. They will also not retract the statement. I am told they can say anything about me they wish, and it is my job to disprove it; not their job to prove it.
To have lawyers selectively reporting on medical case notes is obviously way out of line. But who can stop them? They are a law unto themselves.
With the ever-threatening torment of losing my home, my fighting of this wrongful act of assault and contaminated process where the word justice and fair play don’t rate a mention, makes me ever more determined to contest the atrocities and victimisation from Work Cover, from the opposition lawyers, and from the Education Department. Even beyond that, to now find the Board Members of the College are a mix of prominent politicians and former high-ranking Education Department officials, goes to show how tightly controlled the strategies employed and how high up the food chain, the covering of this assault.
And to think I used to teach anti-bulling and bully-busting courses to students! Bullying starts from the top down, and infiltrates the culture of the organisation.
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