A social worker was treated unfairly by her boss when she was required to take paid discretionary leave and undergo a psychological assessment.

Patricia Ferguson claimed she was disadvantaged in her employment at Presbyterian Support East Coast when she was effectively suspended without consultation in April 2015.

Her claim was heard by the Employment Relations Authority, which found in her favour.

The events that lead to her suspension began in March 2015 when she attended a home visit with a colleague and became concerned for her safety.


The ERA heard that when Ferguson was questioned by her manager as to what caused her concern for her safety all she could explain was the client's "culture, ethnicity, gender and resistance."

Ferguson was distressed at this point, and some days later her manager raised concerns about her competency.

She was called to a meeting, without prior notice, and the managers informed her she was to be sent home on special paid discretionary leave and could not return to work until she had undergone a psychological assessment.

Ferguson initially agreed to go home, but Member of the Authority Trish MacKinnon found given the circumstances, Ferguson agreed under duress.

"I am satisfied from the evidence Ms Ferguson had no ability to dissuade her
employer from the course of action it had decided upon, which was to remove her
from the workplace immediately.

"In that situation Ms Ferguson's agreement to go on leave and to undergo the
psychological assessment deemed necessary by her employer was not agreement
freely given," she said.

Ferguson was disadvantaged because other options such as counselling had not been considered and she was removed from her workplace and colleagues without an opportunity to address her concerns in a meaningful way.

She awarded $2,500 as compensation and her sick leave was reinstated.

Read the full decision here: