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Case Summary

Employer liability for anxiety and PTSD caused by bullying

The State of Tasmania (Department of Education) v S [2020] TASWRCT 39

Bullying means repetitive acts that are unreasonable (which hurt, humiliate or intimidate) and affects the employees’ safety at work (see section 789FB of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth)). Where bullying behaviour causes psychological injury, a workers’ compensation claim will always be accepted.



The three defences to a workers’ compensation claim for psychological illness are:

  1. It is not an injury (e.g. stress is not an injury as opposed to anxiety or PTSD)
  2. The injury did not arise out of or in the course of employment
  3. The injury was caused by reasonable management action (actions taken by the employer to manage the employee which is reasonable to take, and is undertaken in a fair and reasonable manner).

In this case, the Supreme Court found the Tasmanian Department of Education liable for anxiety and PTSD a teacher suffered after:

  • being bullied by colleagues;
  • being physically attacked by a student; and
  • witnessing aggressive conduct between colleagues and a student.

Her employer denied liability and suggested a COVID19-related restructure, and other administrative actions caused her condition.

Her employer also admitted it took no action when she previously raised complaints about workplace bullying and a toxic culture because she was unable to provide specific examples.

Read the full case decision here: The State of Tasmania (Department of Education) v S [2020] TASWRCT 39


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