University to pay $364,000 in bullying case

A FEMALE security guard has been awarded $364,008 in damages after appealing a bullying case she had levelled against the University of the Sunshine Coast.

Gjenie Wolters reported an incident involving her boss, Mark Bradley, yelling at her during a power crisis in 2008, but the uni did not investigate it.

The university also failed to properly investigate similar allegations another female employee, Heather Carney, had made against Mr Bradley in 2007.

The Queensland Court of Appeal found then vice-chancellor Paul Thomas should have reprimanded and counselled Mr Bradley about his earlier behaviour to discharge the university's duty of care.

The original trial judge awarded only $100 nominal damages after finding Mr Bradley's behaviour was unlikely to have changed even if he had been formally reprimanded and counselled.

Justice Robert Gotterson yesterday, with support from two other appeal court justices, set this finding aside and said a successful claim in negligence for damages against the university was made out.

He said it was "abundantly clear" a proper investigation into Ms Carney's allegations would have ascertained Mr Bradley acted in an aggressive way on a mistaken assumption about her actions.

Justice Gotterson said Mr Bradley should have received an appropriate reprimand and counselling about not first ascertaining the true facts before criticising staff members.

He said Mr Bradley also should have been counselled that any warranted criticism be delivered calmly, rationally and courteously, not aggressively.

Justice Gotterson said the Wolters incident might have been avoided if that action was taken.

"Again, Mr Bradley acted upon his own misapprehension of circumstances; again, he failed to check his facts first; and again, he acted aggressively, instead of with authoritative courtesy," he said.

"In my view ... it was more likely than not that had (the university) taken appropriate action to reprimand and counsel Mr Bradley, the incident with (Ms Wolters) would not have occurred.

Mr Bradley - USC's capital programs and operations director, a role that included managing security - was instrumental in the university's construction.

Ms Wolters, a former Qantas security guard who had dealt with "cranky customers" for years, told the court she had "never encountered anyone behaving like that towards her before".

The mother of two - who became an introvert and whose personality and lifestyle changed after the incident - never returned to paid employment, instead turning to ginger farming.


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