26 March 2009

NEWS : Premier's HR adviser seeking compo for workplace bullying

  • Department adviser claims bullying
  • Says she was slapped during meeting
  • She is seeking compo from tribunal
A VICTORIAN Premier's Department adviser who claims her boss slapped her in a team meeting at a bar wants compensation.
Human resources adviser Bridget Bourke alleges Department of Premier and Cabinet colleagues harassed her, in breach of the State Government's human rights charter, the Herald Sun reports.

Ms Bourke, who walks with a limp after overcoming rare bone cancer, is suing the department and her former boss Penni Fisher.

She alleges Ms Fisher slapped her right cheek during a Friday night meeting at Melbourne's The Commune bar in July 2008.

She also claims her boss called her "Iccug" - Gucci spelled backwards - because, unlike the luxury brand, "you can't take her anywhere".

Ms Bourke, 27, resigned and launched action in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. 
She claims she felt victimised by a series of incidents including being yelled at for delivering a document late, and teased for swearing loudly at a broken photocopier.

She claims to have suffered weight loss, a decline in her sex life, anxiety and economic loss.

She has demanded a full written apology, damages for pain and economic loss, and a declaration the department has acted against the human rights charter.

"No one should have to suffer the way I have, let alone while working for a well-respected employer such as the Department of Premier and Cabinet," she told the tribunal.

"I still cannot understand why there needs to be alcohol involved in team meetings, especially working in a Victorian Government department."

The unit she used to work for provides HR advice to the Premier's Department.

The department and Ms Fisher deny most of Ms Bourke's claims, including the alleged slap, and say she is not entitled to compensation.

The defence claims Ms Fisher touched Ms Bourke gently on her right cheek "and spoke words of encouragement to her".

The department and Ms Fisher claim Ms Bourke had a history of "performance issues", including being away from her desk smoking cigarettes and socialising, and long phone calls to friends.

Mediation has failed and a four-day tribunal hearing is listed to start on July 21 2009.

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