Written by Peter CarterUpdated on July 20, 2020
In May 2013 Mitch Skiboux signed off his QF15 duties at LAX and took a transfer with other crew to the Hilton Costa Mesa for their 2 day lay over.
After leaving the “crew room” at the hotel where had socialised with co-workers in the early hours of the following morning he encountered a female colleague “in a state of collapse”.
She had no room key so Mitch went to reception to request a replacement – unsuccessfully – for her.
On arrival back at his room he retired to bed. Sometime later his colleague ran to reception “in a very distressed state” claiming Mitch had indecently assaulted her.
He was woken some hours later by a knock at his door from two California state troopers who arrested and handcuffed him before escorting him to the local lock-up.
DNA swabs were taken from his mouth and he was placed in a cell overnight.
The next morning – about 24 hours after his arrival from Brisbane – he was put in a van for transfer with other prisoners to the Orange County jail.
There he was “processed” by way of a basic medical check and before being placed in a holding cell with 20 to 30 other prisoners.
He felt intimidated and very concerned for his safety.
From there he was finger printed and shown a series of photographs from his multiple entries into the United States during the previous two years before being forced to don “Orange County Jail” prison clothes and placed in solitary overnight.
The following morning he was offered breakfast.
Because it was the “Memorial Weekend” at the start of summer with a public holiday on the Monday, his court appearance – he was told – might not be until 5 days after his arrest.
But about midday on his third day in custody he was released unconditionally without charge.
He was quickly repatriated by Qantas from Los Angeles via Sydney and soon after consulted his doctor about depression.
Qantas conducted its own investigation – while he was stood down on full pay – which apparently concluded the allegations were unsubstantiated.
In a report of November 2014, psychiatrist Doug Andrews diagnosed post-traumatic stress and a major depressive disorder caused by the arrest and confinement.
Qantas refused his WorkCover claim on the basis the incident was not connected to his work.
His appeal to the QIRC was dismissed as a result of which he appealed to the Industrial Court of Queensland.
Justice Glen Martin, noting Skiboux was required to use the hotel room arranged by Qantas until the return flight, took a different view.
The fact that Qantas required him to be there and that he was “at the time his injury was first suffered, using the room for the purpose intended by the employer, namely, to rest or sleep before the return flight” provided the necessary connection between employment and injury.
The refusal to pay compensation was revoked resulting in the claim for time off work and whatever permanent impairment is assessed, being allowed.