On October 2, 2020, the Federal Court of Australia awarded nearly $5 million in damages and penalties in a landmark General Protections claim – Roohizadegan v TechnologyOne Limited (No 2)  FCA 1407. This decision brought into focus the critical importance of upholding workers’ rights and established significant implications for both employers and employees.
The Case Breakdown
The court determined that the applicant had made a valid complaint under his employer’s ‘Open Door Policy’ and ‘Workplace Bullying Policy’. In this context, the court ruled that these policies, along with the applicant’s employment contract, satisfied the first criterion for a General Protections claim, i.e., the applicant made a ‘complaint’ regarding workplace bullying and his contract.
The decisive factor was that the applicant could convincingly demonstrate, through strong and substantial evidence, that his termination was a direct result of exercising a workplace right.
Lessons Learned: The Key Factors in a Successful General Protections Claim
This ruling highlighted several critical takeaways for future General Protections claims:
- Evidentiary Requirements: General Protections claims are significantly dependent on evidence. Witness credibility can be scrutinized, and their honesty explicitly considered by the court.
- Importance of Expert Evidence: Expert evidence supporting the applicant’s complete incapacity to work is crucial. In the Roohizadegan v TechnologyOne case, three expert opinions from psychiatrists were leveraged.
- Quantifying Losses: Expert evidence from a forensic accountant can be valuable in quantifying the loss of future earnings, thereby helping determine the compensation awarded by the court.
- Strong Chronology: Building a solid timeline is important in General Protections claims. The chronology should demonstrate that the decision to terminate an employee followed the employee’s complaint.
- Compensation Potential: If the evidence is robust, the compensation claimed in a General Protections claim can be significant.
Understanding Damages: The ‘Mixed Bag’
In a General Protections claim, compensation can take multiple forms:
- Damages under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth)
- General damages for pain and suffering, including physical pain, mental distress, loss of life’s enjoyment, and loss of life’s amenities
- Damages for breach of contract
- Special damages
The Bottom Line
The Roohizadegan v TechnologyOne case underlined the significant legal and financial implications for employers who breach the Fair Work Act’s general protections provisions. It served as a reminder that employees are well within their rights to take action when subjected to unfair treatment. This landmark ruling underscores the importance of understanding and upholding your rights in the workplace.
Call Frontline Employment Defenders Now so we can help if you have been bullied or unfairly dismissed on1300 089 353 or visit https://www.fled.com.au