This week’s reader query comes from an employee who was caught in the middle of a bank robbery while performing one of her duties – the company banking.
She was waiting at the back of the queue when another man entered and fell in behind her. Moments later she heard what sounded like a gun being cocked.
Our reader turned around and saw another five armed, masked men entering the bank. At the same time, the man behind her started shooting rounds into the roof while ordering everyone to lie down and keep quiet.
The robbery went down in seconds and ended with the men fleeing, cash in hand. As the last robber made his way to the door, he pointed his gun directly at our reader and told her to “have a nice day”.
Shaken and upset, she phoned her company requesting someone to fetch her as she was in no state to drive. Upon her arrival at the office, she told her manager what had happened, but got very little sympathy and he showed no concern for her wellbeing at all.
That night she struggled to sleep and the next morning she woke up with a debilitating migraine. She decided to call in sick, but returned to work the following day even though she still felt under the weather.
Her manager called her in and gave her a written warning as he deemed it unacceptable to take sick leave for a “headache”. He would not listen to her explanation.
Her headaches persisted for days and she was having trouble sleeping as the events replayed in her mind. She decided to see a general practitioner, who diagnosed her with anxiety and depression.
Our reader would like to know what her employer’s responsibility is and what steps she can take to get compensation for her pain, suffering and medical bills.
It is clear that the incident was very traumatic for our reader and the employer needs to show understanding for this.
When she initially reported the incident, her employer, in turn, should immediately have reported it as an injury on duty (IOD) to the Workmen’s Compensation Commissioner.
I advise the reader to consult a psychiatrist – who will make a diagnosis in accordance with the internationally accepted Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) – and inform her employer of the outcome.
For a possible diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) our reader had to be exposed to, as prescribed by the DSM-IV, to a traumatic incident that:
• involved or threatened death or serious injury to herself or others; or
• evoked a response that involved intense fear, helplessness or horror.
If PTSD is diagnosed and this can be linked to the traumatic incident, it will be regarded as an IOD and it must therefore be reported by the employer to the Workmen’s Compensation Commissioner in the prescribed manner.
In the above instance, our reader’s written warning should be rescinded as she would have had a valid reason for not attending work.
If the commissioner accepts liability with regard to the reader’s condition, she will receive compensation for reasonable medical expenses and temporary disability.
An amount for permanent disability may also be paid out should the commissioner decide there is in fact permanent disability as a result of the employee’s illness.
Send your labour and other workplace related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Booysen & Rossouw Attorneys in Port Elizabeth specialises in labour related legislation. The firm also covers injury on duty cases as well as all other aspects of the law.
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