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‘Vague': Virgin defends against former pilot's bullying claims

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‘Vague': Virgin defends against former pilot's bullying claims

Old 10th May 2022, 02:40
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‘Vague': Virgin defends against former pilot's bullying claims

Virgin Australia has filed its legal defence against the Federal Court case brought by a former senior pilot, accusing the ex-pilot of being "vague" and his allegations "not properly pleaded".

Michael Fitzgerald held the position of head of flying operations at Virgin from 2017 until he was terminated from his position in mid-March. He then launched legal action against the airline on April 12.

Fitzgerald claims that Virgin and its chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka "engaged in workplace bullying" against him, which forced him to go on a period of leave from July 19, 2021. He was then told by Virgin chief operating officer Stuart Aggs on October 19 that Hrdlicka had lost confidence in him and ought to move on, and claims he received redundancy options via SMS text on October 25. On December 21, Fitzgerald filed a bullying claim to the Fair Work Commission.

In documents filed to the Federal Court on Monday, the airline said the "vague" nature of Fitzgerald's court application and allegations of bullying that were "not properly pleaded" left the whole case liable to being struck out.

In the court documents, Virgin has denied contravening any Fair Work Act provisions or that it prevented Fitzgerald from exercising workplace rights.

The company affirmed that Fitzgerald took a period of personal/carer's leave on July 19 but claimed he made no mention that he was suffering any illness or injury.

"No allegations were made by the Applicant at that time that he had been bullied at work," state court documents filed by Virgin's lawyer and Seyfarth Shaw partner Ben Dudley.

The company said the former senior pilot's employment was dismissed after two separate independent medical examiners found him to be medically unfit to perform his job.

Regarding Fitzgerald's Fair Work bullying claim filed on December 22, Virgin court documents state: "This was the first occasion on which the Applicant had raised any concerns that he had been bullied a work."

The court documents go on to say he underwent medical examinations with two independent consultants, occupational physician Dr Ki Douglas on January 27, and then on February 11 with psychiatrist Dr Scott Chambers.

In separate reports submitted by the two doctors, both said Fitzgerald had a major depressive disorder, Virgin's court documents state.

Douglas said he should remain off work until a psychiatrist's assessment deemed him fit to return. Meanwhile, Chambers' report also stated Fitzgerald was unable to return to work and also that it was unlikely he would be fit to take up his position in the future. Chambers went on to say it was unlikely Fitzgerald's condition would improve within six months.

"The sole reason for the Respondent's dismissal of the Applicant was the Applicant's ongoing unfitness for work as a result of his medical condition," Virgin states.

Fitzgerald will respond to Virgin's defence as the case continues.
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Old 11th May 2022, 02:01
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So did Jayne “lose confidence” in him because of his performance, or because he was ill?

Tread carefully Mr too smart Lawyer!
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Old 11th May 2022, 02:16
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Pretty tough to sack somebody outright for having a depression diagnosis. Especially from only two sources and only one saying little chance of recovery, whilst the other just advising to take time off until recovered. It would be important if the disorder should be related to the stress of the position and if so it would be directly related to work and workcover and require the company to assist in rehabilitation of the individual, not to turf them out on their ear. I would have thought it would have had to go to at least a medical panel before termination occurred.
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Old 11th May 2022, 13:29
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Having been subjected to the displeasure of a high profile person in another business setting many years ago, I can well imagine the Captain, if his allegations are true, presents with what is allegedly termed "a major depressive disorder". I would suggest it is similar to PTSD but I am not a doctor. Anyone who experiences the anger of one of these creatures would.

The way the perpetrator inflicts pain on their targets is via whispering campaigns, character assassination, social bullying, gaslighting, deliberate ostracism, allegations of poor performance, aggressive supervision, downgrading and other forms of professional and social exclusion that, metaphorically speaking, leave no blood or fingerprints.

Each of the attacks by themselves are portrayed as either reasonable corporate actions, accidents, misunderstandings or innocent mistakes so that the target appears to be paranoid - as any good legal team will allege.

It is only when the totality is experienced that the intention is obvious to the victim. Co-workers either are complicit or naively believe that no one would do such a monstrous thing (they are wrong) and therefore the victim is exaggerating.

Such an experience will leave permanent psychological scars. I don't think I need to explain how its done. Good luck to the Captain in proving it, I don't like his chances.
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