Australia’s Department of Child Protection (DCP) must pay compensation and medical expenses to a youth worker who developed pericarditis after getting a Covid booster under a workplace vaccination directive, the South Australian Employment Tribunal has ruled.
In a decision handed down on January 15th 2024, the tribunal determined that Daniel Shepherd’s employment was “a significant contributing cause” to his injury, which has since rendered him incapable of performing his role at work.
Shepherd got a Covid booster in February 2022 as a requirement for his ongoing employment with the DCP. The DCP admitted that Shepherd’s pericarditis had been caused by the booster, but denied responsibility for the injury, arguing that it did not arise from Shepherd’s employment, but from a lawful State Government Public Health Order (PHO), issued under the Emergency Management Act 2004 (EMA).
However, the tribunal rejected the DCP’s argument, deciding that because the injury arose as a result of both the state-directed vaccination mandate and his employment, Mr. Shepherd was entitled to workers compensation.
“This is a good decision” says human rights lawyer Peter Fam of Sydney law firm Maat’s Method, noting that it sets an important precedent for holding employers accountable for injuries incurred as a result of vaccination directives enforced in the workplace.
“The most significant aspect of this case, in my opinion, is that even though there was a Public Health Order in place, the tribunal found the employer responsible anyway,” says Fam.
Many Australian employers have sought to deflect responsibility for injuries incurred under workplace Covid vaccine directives on the basis that they were simply following state Government orders.
However, under workers compensation law, the workplace is liable if employment is “a significant contributing cause of the injury”, regardless of whether other factors also contributed, explains Fam.
Therefore, despite the PHO stipulating that the worker must be vaccinated as a part of his employment, “the tribunal still found that the injury he suffered as a result of the vaccine was sufficiently related to his work and his employment for him to be compensated by the employer”.
Dr. Rado Faletic, a vaccine-injured scientist and Co-Founder and Director of Covid vaccine injury support charity COVERSE, says that the tribunal decision sends “a clear signal to employers that they have a duty of care to their employees regardless of what governments impose upon them”.