Caboolture Hospital
Caboolture Hospital Vicki Wood

'Dirty old man' hospital worker sacked after attack threat

A SUNSHINE Coast hospital worker who threatened to smash a female co-worker's head after she called him a 'dirty old man' has lost his bid to be reinstated.

Robert Michael Anderson claimed he was role-playing a 'code black' aggressive patient scenario at Caboolture Hospital.

But the Queensland Industrial Relation Commission dismissed his application on November 29, finding Queensland Health had been justified in sacking Mr Anderson for misconduct in 2012.

In a formal complaint, Aimee Tefler told the commission that on September 23, 2011, Mr Anderson asked her to hold his hand and kiss him.

She said she replied: "No, you're a dirty old man Ando, cut it out."

Ms Tefler said Mr Anderson said: "Call me that again and I'll smash your f---ing head through the door."

She thought he was only joking, and said: "Well, stop acting like a dirty old man and I'll stop calling you one."

Her account was backed by a colleague who intervened.

"He continued with 'go on keep going, I will smash you into this door just keep going', it was at this point I finally noticed how his mannerisms and tone of voice had changed and I started to feel scared.

"I'm not a confrontational person so over the past two years I have let many comments slide, not wanting to  be the girl that runs to the office over every small comment and am only drawing the line now because I  feel like it has defiantly (sic) gone too far now that I actually feel unsafe in the workplace,'' Ms Tefler said in her complaint.

"I've avoided  conflict by making a joke out of many comments feeling that if I did it would take the power away from  them to get a rise out of me.

"But I no longer want to be continually hassled with such comments and realise the only way to change this is to write down exactly what I feel is inappropriate and that I want it to stop.

"I don't want to walk into work and be asked to do star jumps because it makes me feel embarrassed and self-conscious nor do I want to be continually asked to 'hold hands' or 'give kisses'.

"There have however been a couple of instances where Michael has made me feel extremely  uncomfortable with physical actions.

"One time being when I was fairly new he kept asking me for a hug, he eventually acted sad so I gave him one.

"He picked me up off the ground, squeezed me tight and later that night made comments to me about how he loved that hug because my breast were pressed up against his body.

"Another time he was sitting next to me and asked me to sit on his lap, I kept refusing but did not leave the room because I had to walk through a narrow space in front of him to get out.

"Eventually another staff member (who verbalised how they didn't understand what the big deal was) sat on his lap and jokingly did a grinding action.

"These two I believe to be friends outside of work, however I am not so this situation made me feel very uncomfortable.''

Mr Anderson completely rejected Ms Telfer's complaints about harassment over the previous two years.

He asked why if he had been acting towards her as she alleged she had waited for so long to make any formal complaint and, secondly, why other staff members who worked in complex had not made any comments given that most of them were supervisors or relieving supervisors.

But the commission findings noted that Mr Anderson had a history of bad behavior including:

• a written warning from Mr Graeme Carswell, Acting Regional Director, Sunshine Coast  Regional Health Authority dated 17 November 1995, for behaviour amounting to sexual harassment toward an operational services officer at the Redcliffe Hospital

• a reprimand from Dr Steve Buckland, District Manager, Redcliffe-Caboolture District Health Service dated 28 April 1998, for unacceptable workplace behaviour and abusive language towards his supervisor ; and

• a reprimand and penalty of $100 from Dr Buckland dated 19 May 1999, for acting in an intimidating and threatening manner towards two co-workers

On 15 June 2011, David Larkin, Operation Support Officer, also alleged Mr Anderson followed him into the staff toilets of Caboolture Hospital and threatened him on multiple occasions, by saying 'I'll put your head through the wall'.

Queensland Industrial Relations Commission deputy president Adrian Bloomfield said in his findings that Ms Tefler was entitled to fear for her safety.

"In my view, Ms Telfer was entitled to be concerned, indeed scared, about the physical threat Mr Anderson made towards her,'' Mr Bloomfield found.

"He is a very solidly built individual, whose physical presence and manner make him appear quite  intimidating - especially, I believe, to a female some 25 - 30 years his junior.

"Ms Telfer was also entitled, as is  any employee placed in similar circumstances, to formally complain about the threat made to her and request her employer to provide her with a safe workplace, free of such behaviour.

"In my view, Mr Anderson's unprovoked threat of physical violence towards Ms Telfer was a serious event which  needed to be dealt with appropriately by the employer, taking all the circumstances into account.''

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