The education industry is vast and varied and includes:

  • university academic and administrative employment, sometimes also covered by a complex enterprise agreement underpinned by an array of workplace policy;
  • vocational education trainers and assessors engaged by employment contracts, but also tightly regulated in the exercise of their duties by vocational and education training (VET) legislation that varies across state, territory and federal laws;
  • private sector school principals, teachers and administrative employees engaged by employment contracts, and covered by an applicable modern award or enterprise agreement;
  • public sector school principals, teachers and administrative employees engaged by employment contract and also governed by public sector legislation;
  • early age educators often engaged in day care facilities by employment contracts, and covered by an applicable modern award or an enterprise agreement.

Some of the processes that may affect education industry employees include:

  • professional standards or code of conduct investigations;
  • disciplinary action;
  • changes to workplace entitlements and conditions;

Contact WorkLegal today to arrange a fixed fee consultation to discuss how we can assist you.

Have you experienced difficulty working in the education sector? Contact us for early advice.

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Case Study – Complaint of Bullying by a Supervisor

A university professor was unhappy with the management style of her supervisor, the vice-chancellor of the university.  The vice-chancellor had stated in an internal memorandum that the professor’s continued position was “untenable”.  In a meeting the professor complained that the vice-chancellor had tried to intimidate her, acted in an authoritarian manner and was bullying her.  She later made a formal complaint.  An investigation of the complaint did not find that bullying had occurred but was critical of how the professor had been removed from a leadership role she had held.  The professor notified an industrial dispute and an agreement was reached about her ongoing role.  Two months later the university initiated a redundancy process and then notified that she was being made redundant.  Significantly, the vice-chancellor failed to keep any record of the reasons why the professor should be selected for redundancy, and could not give a clear and cogent process of reasoning, leading to the conclusion the professor needed to be made redundant.  The court found that the university had unlawfully made use of its redundancy processes to rid itself of an employee, who was considered to be troublesome, at least partly because she was prepared to exercise her workplace rights by making complaints about the behaviour of her immediate supervisor.

National Tertiary Education Union v Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology [2013] FCA 451 (16 May 2013)

Case Study – Unreasonable Management Action

A teacher applied for workers’ compensation for a psychological condition alleged to have resulted from monitoring and mentoring of her performance and bullying by the school principal.  The issue was whether her application should be refused on the grounds that the action towards her was “management action taken on reasonable grounds and in a reasonable manner”.

The court found that although there were “reasonable grounds” – the school had a duty to take action in regard to complaints it had received about the teacher – the management action was not undertaken in a reasonable way, for reasons including:

  • school guidelines for monitoring were not followed
  • she was not given feedback
  • on her first day back from long service leave, and before she could start classes, she was given a 3 page letter about performance issues.

By failing to follow its own procedures the school was found to have taken management action in an unreasonable manner, and the application for workers’ compensation was allowed.

Krygsman-Yeates v State of Victoria [2011] VMC 57

Case Study – Sexual Harassment at Work

Two school cleaners pranked another cleaner when they set up a staff room to appear as though the room had been used as a sex romp.  The room had empty alcohol bottles, clothes and a condom containing fluid.  A co-worker invited the cleaner to sniff the boxer shorts left in the room.  The cleaner was distressed as he thought he was cleaning up bodily fluids.  After the cleaner complained of sexual harassment a co-worker pretended to photograph him and gestured with his middle finger to the cleaner’s wife and children at the school. 

The cleaner suffered a psychological disorder with anxiety and depression and was unable to work for 2 years. 

The tribunal award damages of more than $150,000 made up of pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life; past and future loss of income and superannuation, and treatment costs.

Green v State of Queensland  [2017] QCAT 008

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