Highlights of Noteworthy Decisions

Decision 1013 17
25/02/2022
B. Kalvin - D. Thomson - M. Ferrari
  • Police
  • Stress, mental
  • Board Directives and Guidelines (stress, mental)
  • Presumptions (first responder)

The worker was a police officer. In January 2007, she was arrested in her home by other police officers who were her co-workers. She was subsequently exonerated, and charges against her were withdrawn. The worker appealed the decision of the Appeals Resolution Officer (ARO) denying entitlement for traumatic mental stress.

New legislation and an associated Board policy came into effect which dealt specifically with claims for benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) made by police officers and other first responders. Under the transitional provisions for the amendments, the case was referred back to the Board. In a 2019 decision, the ARO denied entitlement for PTSD under the new provisions.
The issue under appeal was whether the worker had entitlement for either traumatic mental stress (TMS) or PTSD as a first responder.
The Panel adjudicated under the TMS policy and found it was not in dispute the worker suffered an acute reaction to a sudden and unexpected traumatic event. The Panel agreed that being arrested and charged with criminal offences, and having to defend herself against the criminal charges before the charges were withdrawn constituted an unexpected and traumatic event under the TMS policy.
The main point of contention was whether the triggering event arose out of and in the course of employment. The Panel found that the worker's arrest and criminal charges were not the result of a personal matter but rather found the triggering events were inextricably linked to the worker's employment as a police officer as first some of the charges were only laid as a result of her being a police officer; second the nature and degree of emotional distress the worker experienced was inextricably bound up with the fact the worker was a police officer; and third the information she provided to her supervisor which was provided on the basis of her reasonable belief that the terms of her employment required her to do so was subsequently relied on as a basis for charging her with criminal offences.
The Panel allowed the appeal and found the worker had entitlement for TMS. As the Panel found the worker had entitlement for TMS it was not necessary to deal with the issue of whether the worker was entitled to PTSD as a first responder.