The Teachers Are Blowing Their Whistles!

Subtitle

Queensland teachers who are dealing with false allegations / workplace bullying / harassment / mobbing / victimisation or payback need good legal advice. But which Queensland solicitors will help teachers?

Robina Cosser says : I have come to the conclusion that what Queensland classroom teachers need most of all is good legal advice.

 

The Queensland Teachers' Union ( QTU ) seem to support teachers when they are the subject of false allegations by parents or children.

But Queensland classroom teachers who are bullied or injured by other QTU members - fellow teachers, principals, District Office or Head Office administrators - do not seem to be given QTU legal support.

The QTU seem to consider workplace bullying, mobbing, harassment, discrimination and victimisation or "payback" etc. to be "member versus member" issues.

 

 

So I would advise any teacher who is dealing with workplace abuse to get good legal advice - right from the first moment that you are bullied.

 

If your health is being affected by workplace harassment, you need to make a WorkCover claim.

Go to a good solicitor and get legal advice on the wording of your WorkCover claim.

Trilby Misso have a useful guide to understanding the legal process, step by step : http://www.trilbymisso.com.au/legal-help/personal-injury-claim-process.asp

 

But it may be to your advantage to wait till after you return to work to make your workCover claim - see the article by Cynthia Kardell below.

  

You need to make sure that there is a written record of the workplace abuse before an abusive administrator realises that you are going to make a WorkCover claim.

If an abusive administrator realises that you are thinking of making a WorkCover complaint, they will attack you first.

You will be very quickly put on "Managing Unsatisfactory Performance" for some trumped-up reason.

Then the abusive manager will claim that it was this "reasonable management action" that made you ill.

That is how abusive administrators "get away with it".

 

Please note :

 * I can't tell you which solicitor is the best solicitor - I have no legal qualifications at all.

 * I do not receive any commission or benefit of any kind whatsoever from any individual or organisation mentioned on this website or any other website.

 

 * Examples of teachers' legal cases in other states of Australia can be found at  -

http://www.badapplebullies.com/getlegaladvice.htm

 

If any teacher or solicitor would like their details removed from this website, please contact -

Robina Cosser M.Ed (SYD)  [email protected]

Ward Turner : Ex-Policeman available to support teachers in the North Brisbane area.

Robina Cosser says : I have been contacted by an ex-policeman who is offering to support teachers in the North Brisbane area.

I have no financial or other relationship with this person and I cannot endorse this person - I am publishing this information in good faith - you must make your own mind up about his offer.

But I have felt for a long time that teachers are in need of this sort of service - it is so unjust that teachers are not allowed (I understand) to bring a solicitor to a meeting with their principal.

Here is what this ex-policeman has to say -

 

I am an ex-policeman (NSW and QLD) based in the North Brisbane area.

I have some experience supporting teachers who are being investigated.

I am flexible with travel but I can respond to enquiries via e mail or phone.

Much of the preliminary work I prefer to do from home so I can access all the relevant legislation and also because many of my police contacts are here. 

As far as an active support person - this may be negotiated if and when the situation arises.

I have secured a way of contributing to an investigation/record of interview rather than simply being present.  

People I know who have undergone the process have been severely disappointed by their respective union representative.  

As a result, my successes have been achieved by being an active participant.

 

I believe that those in Ethical Standard Units (ESU) rule by some key strategies -

1. Teachers are ignorant of the process.

2. Teachers blab when interviewed.

3. A teacher (interviewee) is as nervous as h-ll and will not challenge - normally because they have nothing to hide but inadvertently are bricked into something minor for Ethical Standards to justify their existence.

4. Cannot stress this one enough - teachers do not mention at the start of interview that they are answering under duress (which renders anything said during the interview as not admissible should further proceedings take place).

5. The support person does not brief the interviewee.

6. The support person does not make contact with interviewers and request all documentation.

 

I have found that ESU's are very different in their conduct when I introduce myself as the support person as a former policeman, justice of the peace and current commissioned officer in the military police.

I look forward to hearing from teachers -

Ward Turner   0430 087 159    [email protected]

Martin Rogalski : Slater and Gordon

Martin Rogalski of Slater and Gordon acted for the Toowoomba science teacher who was diagnosed with cancer in March 2016.

The teacher had "inadvertently breathed in a ticking time-bomb" when Bunsen burner mats made from asbestos were used in his classrooms.


Qld teacher developed cancer from asbestos, Jamie McKinnell, AAP, 5 July 2016

Slater and Gordon Lawyers :  teacher awarded $769,094.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers have offices in Brisbane and in several other cities in Queensland -

http://www.slatergordon.com.au/location/qld/Brisbane

 

Michael Magazanik from Slater and Gordon Lawyers was Peter Doulis's solicitor.

Peter Doulis is one of the Werribee teachers -

 

http://www.badapplebullies.com/thewerribeestory.htm  

 

Supreme Court judge Tim Ginnane found Werribee Secondary College had failed to minimise the risk posed to teacher Peter Doulis by his working conditions.

 

Judge Ginnane ordered the state of Victoria pay Peter Doulis -

 

 $550,000 in damages for future economic loss

 $300,000 in general damages

 $337,090 in past loss of earnings

 and $70,000 interest on lost wages.

 

Victorian government representatives opposed Mr Doulis's barrister's submission that the teacher's legal bill was around $380,000.

 

Michael Magazanik said Peter Doulis succeeded because Mr Doulis was able to prove that -

 * He had brought to the attention of the principal at Werribee Secondary College the fact that his health was in steep decline.

 * He had told them that in writing.

 * He had passed on information from a psychologist.

 * And the school sat on its hands and did nothing for him and watched his health go down the gurgler.

 

 

The Werribee Findings in more detail : http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/vic/VSC/2014/395.html 

$750k for teaching 'feral' students, Pia Akerman, p.3, The Weekend Australian, 6-7 September 2014.

Teacher Peter Doulis wins $1.3m payout after unruly students drive him to the brink, Emily Portelli, The Herald Sun, 16 September 2014

Jim Brooks : Cairns solicitor / mediator.

Jim Brooks is a Cairns solicitor and mediator.

Mr Brooks wrote the Djarragun report.

 

Bringing The Apology Home, Denise Carter, The Cairns Post, 16 February 2008.

Trent Johnson : Maurice Blackburn
A former Shailer Park pre-school teacher has just found out she has terminal mesothelioma.

She wants to warn ex-staff and children that they also were exposed to deadly asbestos in 1983.

The teacher, now in her early 60s, who worked at Shailer Park Pre-School from 1981 to 2006.

She was diagnosed with advanced mesothelioma, an inoperable terminal condition, only a month ago.

She has been told she has a limited life expectancy.

The woman has lodged a workers' compensation claim and in November 2010 she filed a personal injuries damages claim for $765,540 in the Supreme Court in Brisbane.

 

Trent Johnson, an associate of law firm Maurice Blackburn : http://www.mauriceblackburnqld.com.au/our-people/professional/trent-johnson.aspx , is urging teachers and all other staff who attended the pre-school in 1983 to consider having health checks.

 

Mr Johnson said Queensland Government documents confirmed the presence of asbestos within the original 1982 pre-school building and in extensions the following year.

In early 1983 asbestos fibro sheeting and corrugated asbestos roofing were cut, sawed and trimmed with power tools during school hours.

The woman's claim says that she, her co-workers, parents and students inhaled asbestos dust, fibres and particles.

"Normal classes were conducted while the pre-school extensions were under construction and everyone who was at the site during the building works in early to mid-1983 would have been exposed to the asbestos dust," Mr Johnson said.

Mesothelioma and asbestosis can take 10 to 50 years to develop.

 

Sick teacher warns over asbestos, Kay Dibben, The Sunday Mail, 18 December 2010
 
 

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers prides itself as Labor-friendly and has a track record of delivering politically active lawyers into parliament for the Labor Party.


The minister, the lawyer and class-action conflict, Hedley Thomas, P.1 and P. 8, The Australian, 20 February 2016

Steve Herd : Murphy-Schmidt Solicitors, Mary Street, Brisbane.
Teachers in Brisbane have spoken well of Murphy-Schmidt Solicitors, 130 Mary Street, Brisbane 4000
 
Steve Herd (accredited specialist - Personal Injuries Law) http://www.murphyschmidt.com.au/steve_herd.html .
 
 
But please use your own judgement - I do not endorse any particular solicitor.
Susan Moriarty : Susan Moriarty & Associates, Grange, Brisbane City North.

Susan Moriarty & Associates specialise in Anti Discrimination, Employment law and Industrial Law : http://www.hotfrog.com.au/Companies/Susan-Moriarty-Solicitors

 

Susan Moriarty has 12 years experience dealing with employment and workplace legal matters.

 

Susan Moriarty says compulsory medical examinations are very common in the Queensland public service.

They are often used as a means of forcing people with illness or disabilities out of their government jobs.

 

 

But Queensland teachers can now challenge unfair forced medical and psychiatric examinations after a landmark decision in the Court of Appeal.

The November 2 2012 Court of Appeal decision means that Queensland teachers who are forced to have medical or psychiatric examinations can object on the grounds of discrimination.

They can get an injunction stopping the process, until their discrimination complaint is resolved.

 

Forced medicals open to dispute, Kay Dibben, The Sunday Mail, 18 November 2012

Tim Dobinson : Preston Law, Cairns.

A teacher from the Cairns area has spoken to me very highly of the work of Tim Dobinson of Preston Law, Cairns : http://www.prestonlaw.com.au/Home/Our-People/Tim-Dobinson.aspx

 

But please use your own judgement - I do not endorse any particular solicitor.

Mr F. Gouldson : Gouldson Legal

Mr F. Gouldson of Gouldson Legal acted for a female Languages Other Than English ( LOTE ) teacher who was bullied at Albany Creek State High School, Queensland. 

DA Swan, Deputy President of the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission, found that there had been -

"a continued course of conduct by ... (Mr Swan named another teacher at Albany Creek State High School) ... towards the appellant which has been completely unreasonable".

and that -

"The injury suffered by the appellant did not arise out of, or in the course of, "reasonable management action taken in a reasonable way".

And he ordered that the LOTE teacher be compensated.

 

Gouldson Legal offer a No Win - No Fee service.

They have a freecall number 1800 677 923

Gillian Klanke : Trilby Misso Lawyers.

Gillian Klanke of Trilby Misso Lawyers is representing a 49 year old female teacher who suffered a complete breakdown after allegedly enduring years of workplace abuse by the head of education services at a Queensland "Special Needs" school.

Trilby Misso Lawyers are preparing a notice of claim against WorkCover as the insurer of Education Queensland.

 

Teacher sues over "bullying", Angela Harper, The Northern Star, 7 September 2009.

Robyn Davies : Trilby Misso
As a managing lawyer at Trilby Misso, it's part of Robyn Davies' job to monitor calls to the law firm about workplace stress claims and psychological injuries.

"Many people who phone keep trying to cope but the longer they do, the worse their symptoms get until they reach the stage where they are suffering severe anxiety that requires medical intervention, " Davies says

Davies says those that have suffered an injury due to workplace bullying can make a claim through WorkCover Queensland or make a common law claim by approaching a law firm.

To ensure a case is successful, she advises those encountering bullying to act immediately by keeping diary notes including the names of anyone who witnessed the events.

"The average employee does not know what they need to prove a claim."

They think because they have right on their side that that will be enough," Davies says.

Trilby Misso has won a number of bullying claims.

"Workplace bullying is a major occupational health and safety issue but some employers just don't get it," Davies says.

"All employers have a duty of care to their employees to provide a safe workplace."

Write it down and get on the phone , 5 June 2010 : http://www.safetyinaustralia.com.au/safety-news/4665-bullies-must-be-brought-into-line-immediately.html 

But ...

Law firm Trilby Misso chases client for $123,00 despite 'no win, no fee' mantra, Kay Dibben, The Sunday Mail, 29 May 2011 : http://www.couriermail.com.au/business/law-firm-trilby-misso-chases-client-for-123000-despite-no-win-no-fee-mantra/story-e6freqmx-1226064717687

Bill McMillan : McMillan Legal.

Bill McMillan of McMillan Legal acted for Ruth Fussell, a Queensland teacher who had worked at the Brisbane School of Distance Education for 13 years.

In October 2005 Ms Fussell was informed that she was going to be transferred to Marsden State High School in January 2006.

In May 2006 the principal of Marsden State High School advised Ms Fussell that she was going to be placed on a Managing Unsatisfactory Performance ( MUP ) plan.

Ms Fussell became ill after this meeting and has been unable to work since ( to 24 June 2009 ).

Ms Fussell claimed compensation.

WorkCover Queensland and Q-COMP both rejected Ms Fussell's claim for compensation.

But the Brisbane Magistrates's Court found that the Queensland Department of Education had unreasonably failed to -

 * forsee and to take adequate account of the difficulties Ms Fussell faced in adjusting from her previous teaching work at the Brisbane School of Distance Education.

 * provide Ms Fussell with the necessary support.

 * provide Ms Fussell with the necessary training.

 * take account of the difficulty in teaching a program without having had the necessary training.

And Ms Fussell's appeal was allowed.

Ms Fussell's case in more detail.

Bill McMillan of McMillan Legal.

Bill McMillan of McMillan Legal also acted for Megan Hastie of the Brisbane School of Distance Education in her application to the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal of Queensland.

Megan was working in Cairns.

She was transferred to the Brisbane School of Distance Education ( BSDE ) on 25 January 2001 till 19 December 2003.

But then she received a letter to advise her that she had been transfered again to Rainworth State School from 24 January 2002.

Megan appealed this transfer because she had settled herself and her three very young children in St Lucia in order to be close to BSDE.

Scott Smith, Principal Personnel Officer, advised Megan in writing that she had been transferred "in order to place more teachers at Brisbane School of Distance Education who would be able to provide travel services to students and with your family responsibilites in mind ..."

Megan made an application for an order under S.144 of the Anti-Discrimination act 1991that this was discrimination against her on the basis of the attribute of parental status and / or family responsibilities.

Walter Sofronoff, President of the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal of Queensland, ordered that John Ryan, Scott Smith, etc. not transfer Megan to Rainworth State School or to any other place of work.

More details of Megan Hastie V. John Ryan, Jeff Hunt, Scott Smith, etc. of the Queensland Department of Education.

Thady Blundell : Turner Freeman Lawyers

Thady Blundell, of Turner Freeman Lawyers, said the firm had acted for two Queensland teachers who developed mesothelioma after asbestos exposure.

Turner Freeman Lawyers are also representing other teachers who have been exposed to asbestos.

Shine Lawyers.

Shine Lawyers are representing a Bundaberg teacher, Valissa Julieta Bauer, who claims that she had to over-use her voice in an attempt to control her composite Year 6 and 7 class at Thabeban State School.

Ms Bauer claims that the class included 31 Special needs children.

She is suing the Queensland Government over a lack of adequate classroom assistance.

Ms Bauer's claim is for almost $420,009 in damages for personal injury.

Her claim includes general damages, past economic loss, future impairment of her earning capacity to age 65 and medical expenses.

 

Bundaberg teacher claims $400,000 damages from injuries to larynx from yelling at students, The Sunday Mail : 11 July 2020.

Andrew Tobin : Hopgood Ganim Lawyers.

It is important to understand that Hopgood Ganim Lawyers usually represent employers rather than employees.

But Mr Tobin is willing to speak to individual teachers about workplace problems.

And the Hopgood Ganim advice to employers is also useful for employees.

Andrew Tobin of Hopgood Ganim Lawyers has written an interesting guide to workplace bullying for employers -

Eliminating Workplace Bullying and Harassment : April 2009.

The article is well worth reading for definitions, special risk situations and the impact of workplace bullying on the victim.

It also contains some really interesting quotes -

"If a corporate employer commits an offence under the Act, so too does every executive officer associated with it ..."

"It is ... important the employers identify any workers with ineffective managerial styles as these behaviours may contribute to workplace harassment."

Andrew Tobin and Jessica Paten of Hopgood Ganim Lawyers have written another guide for employers -

2007 Performance Management Processes

This article also contains some interesting quotes -

In 2004-2005 ... the Australian education sector experienced a 32% increase in compensated claims.

Education was the only Australian industry to experience an increase in incidence rates of injury or illness.

"In the current context an employer's primary concern, in order to avoid liability for a claim made under the Woprkers' Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (QLD) during the course, or as a result of, performance management of an employee, will be to act and to be seen to act reasonably, that is, by taking "reasonable management action ... in a reasonable way".

The meaning of "in a reasonable way" is discussed.

The 5 pillars of risk management in the workplace harassment context are interesting -

Employers should -

(a) Look for hazards.

I presume this means that the Department of Education has a responsibility to actively look for Workplace Bully principals.

(e) Monitor and review the effectiveness of the control measure.

I presume this means that the Department of Education should actively monitor the effectiveness of the CMC / Department of Education "investigation process".

So, for example -

How effective is it to allow Workplace Bully principals to investigate themselves?

How effective is it to delay - for as long as six and a half years - before starting an "independent investigation" into allegations of workplace harassment, falsifiying of documentation, etc.?

How effective is it to change the Terms of Reference of an investigation to exclude the actual complaint?

How effective is it to instruct the "independent investigator" to simply copy down whatever the Workplace Bully principal tells him, even if it is obviously untrue?

 

The article also discusses the importance of -

"training those responsible for giving effect to relevant procedures and processes.

The best systems in the world are pointless if those charge with implementing them are ignorant of how to do so."

I agree.

It is negligent to appoint a principal or acting school principal who has no knowledge of the official procedures and processes.

It places the classroom teachers at that school at risk of harm.

Principals should be required to demonstrate knowledge of the official procedures and processes before they are appointed.

And principals should be able to demonstrate a capacity to comprehend, and a willingness to comply with the official procedures and processes before they are appointed.

Hopwood Ganim Lawyers, Level 8 Waterfront Place, 1 Eagle Street, Brisbane.

Cynthia Kardell of Whistleblowers Australia says  - Teachers, stay in the driver's seat!

When it comes to Workers' Compensation, you need to be strategic.

Decide whether you want to return to work or not, and then stay in the driver's seat.

There's plenty of time to bring a worker's compensation claim at the end, when you've successfully got yourself back to work on your own terms.

Think about what happens when you make a motor vehicle accident claim.

Once you make the claim, you've legally given your insurer the right to decide what's to be done - even to the point of being able to sell your car back to you if you don't want it written off.

Worker's compensation insurance is no different.

Once you make your claim, your employer is legally entitled to involve itself in your affairs and to dictate how, when, what and why.

Your employer gets to be in the driver's seat and is largely in tandem with their agent, the insurer.

It's an all too familiar story -

Your own doctor's views are no longer seen to be important.

You have to see their psychiatrist, not yours.

Their psychiatrist invariably operates on your employer's version of your history, not yours.

Some awful things happen.

A person once told me how, as he said goodbye, the psychiatrist grasped his hand, saying to him sympathetically, "I bet you feel like killing the bastards sometimes".

The whistleblower grimaced, barely raising a smile.

You guessed it - the psychiatrist's report came back with something like, "He shook his fist at me, shouting he'd kill the bastards".

People do bad things for very little reason sometimes, and money makes it all too easy.

But if you use your own leave entitlements, then you, with your doctor, stay in the driver's seat.

Your employer generally can't direct you to see anyone without your agreement and has to take notice of your doctor's instructions.

You would need to make sure your doctor is kept fully informed on a regular basis.

All your medical cetificates should provide details of your symptoms and sheet home the blame to your employer.

If you don't have a doctor, get one.

Get a referral to a psychiatrist or psychologist.

Your doctors should keep a detailed record of what's going on.

Then, after you get back to work or decide to leave, you can put in what is known as a "closed period" worker's compensation claim.

This should ensure that you'll have the only record and the best record.

It's known as a "closed period claim" because it is for a set period and it is being made after the fact.

You would be claiming all of the usual things : monetary reimbursement for the leave entitlements you've used, all related expenses and compensation if applicable.

So, stay in the driver's seat!

You can do the same if you opt for medical retirement, but use your leave entitlements upfront and then claim them back at the point you leave work, because that way you stay in control of your own affairs for as long as you can.

Cynthia Kardell is National President of Whistleblowers Australia.

This article is adapted from Cynthia's article on page 13 of the April 2010 issue of The Whistle.

Robina Cosser says :
Solicitors are business people, not ministering angels.

The experience of one Queensland woman whose husband was wrongly accused of child s-x abuse will give you an idea how the life of an ordinary, innocent Queenslander can be destroyed by Queensland public servants -

The woman's husband was wrongly accused of child s-x abuse.

The Families Department illegally shredded the child abuse investigation documents.

The woman lost her job.

After investigating for three and a half years, Fred Albeitz, the Ombudsman, recommended that she be compensated.

She has been waiting for the compensation for more than ten years.

She believes that she will get justice.

She has spent $117,000 on legal costs.

She may lose her home.

In September 1998 Peter Beattie said that he would be an "honest broker" and bring a speedy resolution to the matter.

Anna Bligh was Families Minister.

Allan Male was Director-General.

Ken Smith was the next Director-General. He unreservedly apologised.

Her Supreme Court application seeking leave to proceed with her case was unsuccessful.

(Why?)

An appeal in 2003 was unsuccessful.

The State Government employed Queen and Senior counsels to fight the case.

She is now communicating with Linda Apelt, the Director- General of the new Communities department, which is now responsible for the Families Department files.

Not only do senior public servants and ministers continually change jobs, they also change the names of their departments.

So it is very hard to hold Ministers and public servants responsible for anything.

Fight to right legal bungle, Margaret Wenham, The Courier-Mail, 26 December 2006.

 

 

 

 

A 44-year-old teacher's aide at the same southeastern Queensland state school has also come forward with similar allegations against the same boss.

The teacher alleges she suffered a nervous breakdown as a result of working with the "abusive, volatile and manipulative" boss.

"She would yell, she would scream at you in front of other staff and students, she would slam her hands on the desk and she would write highly critical notes and put them in your pigeon hole," she said in a statement issued by Trilby Misso lawyers.

"People were frightened of her."

When she took stress leave, the superior came to her home and continued to contact her, the teacher says.

"She was trying to intimidate me."

The teacher and 44-year-old female teacher's aide, who wish to remain anonymous, had both complained to the school principal and Education Queensland.

But both had turned a blind eye, the teachers' lawyers say.

Lawyer Gillian Klanke said the teacher had suffered a complete breakdown after years of verbal abuse and intimidation over a number of years at the school.

"The teacher and one of her colleagues have suffered psychological injuries as a result of the mistreatment from the head of special education services at the school," she said.

The law firm is preparing a notice of claim against WorkCover as the insurer of Education Queensland for one of the women.

Ms Klanke said the behaviour of the department head went unchecked because the principal, who recently retired, turned a blind eye to the situation.

A spokeswoman from Education Queensland told AAP it would be difficult to go into any detail about the case because of privacy issues.

 

Teacher sues over 'bullying', Angela Harper, Northern Star, 7 September 2009 http://www.northernstar.com.au/story/2009/09/07/teacher-sues-alleging-years-of-bullying/

 

Now, I do not know if these women ever went to court, but to my mind they had their say - their allegations were published and other teachers were warned about what was 'going on' at the school.

They were not identified - their lawyer did the talking for them.

And the women were not committed to huge legal fees or the stress of a long legal battle.

If I was starting my own 'case' again, I would consider this option.

Please note :

I can't tell you which solicitor is the best solicitor - I have no legal qualifications at all.

I do not receive any commission or benefit of any kind whatsoever from any individual or organisation mentioned on this website.

Robina Cosser M.Ed (SYD)  [email protected]

 

 

 

 

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