In the case of Jacqueline Pedley v West Coast College of TAFE, C21-2006, 8 November 2006, McCann AC made the following comments regarding personality conflict in a workers compensation claim:
The respondent submitted that a personality conflict, without more, between two employees could not constitute a sufficient state of affairs to satisfy the relevant test of causation. It was submitted that it would still be necessary for the applicant to prove that events occurred or a state of affairs existed which manifested the personality conflict. I accept that submission. In my view, based on the authorities which I have referred to, the term "the employment" could be wide enough in a stress claim to include a personality conflict between two employees, but not in the purely abstract sense of them simply having antithetical or different personalities (for example, shy and gregarious). In my view it is necessary that the conflict be manifested (even if only subtly) by some event, occurrence, characteristic, working condition, or state of affairs. In my view it is the worker's perception of those manifestations of conflict, and not the abstract personality conflict per se, that is to be considered for the purpose of determining whether the personality conflict contributed to the onset of a disease to a significant degree.
Accordingly, in my view it was not sufficient for the applicant in this case to simply point to a fmding that a personality conflict existed between her and Ms Timms. It was necessary for the applicant to identify the events, or working conditions or state of affairs which arose form, or which manifested, the personality conflict.
In Department of Education v Azmitia  WADC 85 ("Azmitia") McCann DCJ affirmed his views expressed in Pedley when he said at para 16;
A stress claim is compensable if it is caused by a worker's subjective reaction to objectively proven facts. It is not necessary for a worker to prove that his or her subjective perception of proven facts was reasonable ... (cases cited.)
There is, therefore, no requirement that the interpretation placed on an incident or state of affairs at work by the employee, or the employee's perception of it, be objectively reasonable. If the incident or state of affairs actually occurred, and created a perception in the mind of the employee (whether reasonably or unreasonably held in the thinking of others — but genuinely held) and the perception contributed in a material degree to the employee's condition, the requirements of the definition in s 5(1)(c) are met. An employer must take a worker as it finds her and a worker's genuine subjective reaction to objectively proven facts is enough.
Workers compensation is a highly litigious area of law and therefore the information in this article should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice regarding your personal situation.
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