BHP Operations Services has successfully defended an unfair dismissal claim by an employee absent from work since March 2022.
The company had commissioned an independent medical examination (IME) which determined that the worker suffered from a chronic adjustment disorder and was unable to return to her position due to her feelings of ‘malignant resentment’ toward the employer.
The IME concluded that her anxiety and mistrust of the employer would worsen her condition if she returned to work.
The worker argued that the IME unfairly relied on her reports about a toxic work culture and workplace complaints instead of assessing her ability to perform her job tasks. She claimed that with the right support, she could perform her duties effectively. She also mentioned instances of bullying and harassment from her supervisor and a threatening incident involving a colleague when discussing mandatory COVID vaccinations.
BHP stated it terminated her employment out of concern for health and safety risks and their belief she couldn't safely perform her role.
The Fair Work Commission agreed, concluding the IME clearly indicated the worker's inability to return to her former role due to her mental state, noting the IME provided a clear view the worker couldn't return to her role.
As a result, the workers claim of unfair dismissal was dismissed.
The case illustrates that mistrust or resentment towards the employer, no matter how justified, can be used as a reason for dismissal. Maintaining a professional demeanor and demonstrating a commitment to resolving the situation, when possible, can be crucial.
Source: OHS Alert, 15 August