The case of the wheelie bin: Court upholds Telstra employee’s shoulder injury claim

A Telstra employee who aggravated an existing shoulder injury by moving a wheelie bin out of his work car park will receive a payout, after a court ruled the injury arose out of his employment.

Kane Bowden had a long-term shoulder injury which first occurred in 1995 when he was employed in the Australian Army. The injury led to his discharge from the army on medical grounds in 2007.

The following month Bowden commenced more apparently sedentary employment with Telstra as a technical specialist. However, while parking his car in the underground car park of a Telstra building one day, he found a large industrial waste bin was blocking his way.

While trying to move the waste bin from the car parking space, Bowden “seriously aggravated” his long-standing left shoulder injury.

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal initially found the injury arose out of or in the course of Bowden’s employment, as there was a sufficient causal connection between the injury suffered by Bowden and his employment.

Telstra appealed the decision to the Federal Court, which dismissed the appeal and gave the parties seven days to make agreement to costs.

Harold Luntz, Emeritus Professor of Law at Melbourne University, told SmartCompany the court had adopted a broad definition of the legal concept.

“The courts have over the years been expanding what arises out of employment. It goes back a long way to the start of workers’ compensation payments in England,” he says.

“The courts have certainly taken a beneficial attitude towards workers in interpreting this legislation.”

The case follows a recent finding by the Fair Work Ombudsman that James Hardie had discriminated against a prospective employee with a shoulder injury by failing to hire him and a finding by the Federal Court that a woman who injured herself having sex on a work trip had injured herself in the course of her employment.

A spokesperson for Telstra said the company did not want to comment while costs were still being determined.

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