What Actually Happened?
Kozarov claimed that this resulted in immense psychological trauma; she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depression during and after her time there, which had severe consequences on her quality of life. Some of the impacts she faced included:
- Turning into a fearful and paranoid person
- Becoming abnormally protective over her own children
- A range of symptoms including but not limited to panic attacks, flashbacks, nightmares, loss of confidence and motivation, tiredness, difficulty processing information etc.
- Limited social contact
She argued that the fault in this situation lay with the employer as they had failed to implement practices that would prevent this from occurring, despite being aware of the psychological challenges posed to those that undertook roles at the SSOU. She further claimed that when she did begin to display signs of being unwell and requiring support, no assistance was provided.
The Court’s Ruling:
In 2021, after a long procedural history, the High Court ruled in favour of Kozarov. The court found that the employer had ultimately failed “to provide a safe working environment that protected its employees from risks to their health in the workplace”.
It is significant to note here that the employer’s arguments, that exposure to distressing content was part of the job description or that they had been unaware of any impairment to Kozarov’s wellbeing until her 2012 email (in which she cited her decision to leave her role), fell short at court.
What does this mean for an employer’s responsibility towards mental health?
Patsy Toop, Kozarov’s lawyer, thinks that the outcome of the case sheds light on the fact that the responsibility of managing one’s mental health has been shouldered by employees alone for far too long. She described the outcome as ‘extremely important and significant for workplace psychiatric injury that’s suffered generally throughout Australia’. Moving forward, she thinks it’s crucial that workplaces take measures to ensure that there are practices and safeguards in place to protect and encourage the good mental health of their workers.
What can case management software do?
Whilst any liability for mental harm as a result of work differs on a case-by-case basis, it is crucial that there are means of handling such issues internally before any employee suffers from significant psychological damage. It is becoming increasingly clear that the lack of case management software to handle ongoing OH&S support for mental health related issues is no longer an acceptable state for an employer invested in the wellbeing of their employees. In fact, one of the significant notes made by the judge in the ruling of this case was that despite the incredibly stressful nature of Kozarov’s role, there was “no management system in place that tracked whether individual staff were confronting particularly disturbing material or events”.
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The Zagi Kozarov case is an important reminder to employers of their responsibility for not only the physical, but mental wellbeing of their employees. Polonious’s case management software provides a system that allows employers to better manage their workplace environment, preventing the detrimental escalation of issues that harm both the employee and company.