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Working in a call centre has caused me stress and injury. Can I claim?

Call centre workers are under pressure. A heavy workload, coupled with noise, sometimes angry customers and bullying in the workplace takes a toll, and many workers are finding they can’t cope. Tindall Gask Bentley lawyer Ashleigh Ridgway discusses the issues and potential solutions.


Noisy, stressful and fast-paced, working in a call centre certainly isn’t easy.

Call-centre workers face stress every day. Stress from dealing with upset customers, unreasonable co-workers and hearing-related injuries are just a few examples of the claims regularly made by call-centre workers. If you are suffering from work-induced stress, you might have a claim for compensation or protection orders through the Fair Work Commission. Sometimes such situations can be made worse by supervisors failing to understand someone’s response to stress at work. So, if you feel as if you have been bullied at work, or dismissed as a result of stress, you might be able to seek a legal solution to help get your life back on track.

Physical injuries

It is also possible you could suffer a physical injury at work. There have been a number of cases involving call-centre workers and the various injuries they have suffered.  One particular case involved a worker who developed both a physical and psychological injury. The worker was on a call when two loud, high pitched noises came through her headset. As a result she was diagnosed with tinnitus, although her injury was compounded by the general stress from her work. The worker then struggled to sleep, and eventually, when combined with her acute stress, developed a psychological condition. This condition was partially contributed to by her supervisor’s approach to her capacity to work. They made her feel “belittled and dehumanised”,’ through allocating her demeaning tasks and asking her to tell other staff she was no longer permitted to perform tasks she had done prior to the incidents.  Ultimately, the call-centre worker’s compensation claim was successful.

Bullying

If you feel bullied by a superior or co-worker, you may be able to seek a further remedy. In the above worker’s case, she may have been able to make an application to the Fair Work Commission to stop the bullying. There are other applications that can be made which allows for the Fair Work Commission to make orders to prevent the bullying from taking place in the future. Such an order could allow you to continue in your job without the additional stress and harm imposed by the threat of bullying within your workplace.

Unfair dismissal

If you feel you have been unfairly dismissed from your call centre job you may have a claim. Unfair dismissal is defined as a dismissal which is ‘harsh, unjust or unreasonable.’ An application for an unfair dismissal may provide another solution for you either by having you reinstated, or your employer paying you compensation.  Keep in mind that if you are considering an application for unfair dismissal, there are a few procedural requirements. Most importantly, an application must be made to the Fair Work Commission within 21 days of the dismissal taking place.  If you are interested in pursuing an unfair dismissal claim you should contact a lawyer as soon as you are dismissed.

In one successful unfair dismissal claim, the worker had taken sick leave for major surgery, and was called into the manager’s office for a meeting in which she felt bullied and harassed. Management then demanded she change the basis of her work to that of an independent contractor, giving her less job security. The worker understandably felt upset and distressed by this and obtained a medical certificate covering a four-day absence. Upon returning to work, she was bullied again for her time off work, and effectively forced out of her job after management threatened to demote her, but failed to put her new role in writing. The worker ultimately left the workplace due to her concerns about the lack of job security. She was successful in her claim for unfair dismissal, and the Commission ordered compensation be paid to her.

Conclusion

The above cases are examples of the bullying and harassment which can occur in the call-centre industry, and compounds the already stressful roles of call-centre workers. If you believe you have been bullied or harassed, it is possible to seek an order to restrain it, and if it results in what is clearly, or implicitly a dismissal, you could potentially seek reinstatement or compensation. If your call centre work has caused you stress, or led to physical or mental illness, you can seek compensation through the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act. Tindall Gask Bentley are experts in workplace law and can assist you through these complex processes. Call (08) 8212 1077 today to make an appointment, or register here and we’ll be in touch soon.

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