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Allianz ordered to pay ex-manager $1.4 million

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A NSW court has ruled Allianz must pay $1.39 million in damages plus interest to a former manager who alleged he was a victim of bullying and harassment from his immediate supervisor.

In his lawsuit, Craig Ward claimed the abuse began shortly after a new state manager identified only as Mr Smith, who was a former army commander, joined the business in 2003.

In written and oral evidence, Mr Ward alleged he was shouted at and told he “was hopeless at his job” several times. On one occasion, he was slapped so hard on his head that he nearly hit the computer keyboard. He was also hit on the shoulder at other times.

Mr Ward says the abuse lasted for 14 months until April 2004.

Other employees who gave evidence say they too were bullied, corroborating Mr Ward’s account of a pattern of abusive behaviour from Mr Smith, who was removed from his post in April 2004 and given a national role. He later left the insurer.

“None of this evidence was contested. It is supported by the evidence of other employees of Allianz at the time,” Judge Justin Smith said in his ruling at the District Court of NSW.

“I accept that [he] was treated in this way by his manager over the period of about 14 months from early 2003 to April 2004.”

Allianz argued it could not be held liable for the physical aspects of Mr Smith’s behaviour but the judge disagreed.

“He embarked on one course of conduct aimed at achieving what he saw as his single goal, the improvement of the business. That course of conduct included physical abuse that was, on any view, improper,” Judge Smith says.

“However, it was intimately connected with Mr Smith’s task because it was done in the apparent execution of the authority which Allianz had given him as state manager.”

Mr Ward now suffers from a range of psychiatric conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder and depression as a result of the abuse.

He also suffers headache, fatigue, sore joints and sore throat that had become chronic by 2005, his GP says in his medical report.

He subsequently lodged a claim for workers' compensation in respect of his psychiatric illness. In April 2017, the Workers' Compensation Commission determined he had suffered a primary psychological injury “to which his employment was a substantial contributing factor,” according to a copy of the ruling.