July 22, 2016 | 2357 ViewsQantas steward in WorkCover win over LA arrest psych injury

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.

For more information, go to: Workers Compensation

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.

Skiboux v Simon Blackwood (Workers’ Compensation Regulator) & Anor [2016] ICQ 014 Martin J, President 18 July 2016

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2 Responses

  1. Mike Butler Jul 30, 2016 — Reply

    And I damn well should think so! I speak as someone who, from 1967 to 1970, was an International Flight Steward with Qantas! Back in those days, Qantas “cared” for all its staff, and the damn “bean counters” would never have got their grubby mitts into a case like this!

    Sadly, these days it is all about “bums on seats” and the bottom (excuse the pun) line!

    Back in the late Sixties and early Seventies, when an Aussie walked up the boarding steps at some international airport onto a Qantas Boeing 707, their first thought was, ” I can almost smell the gum leaves in the air”.

    Today, if there was no flying kangaroo on the tail to tell you it was Qantas — you could be on any number of boring, homogeneous airlines!

  2. John Loy Aug 15, 2016 — Reply

    I think it is very wrong the way this case has been reported. The legal question at issue – whether the hotel accommodation provided by the airline effectively constituted a workplace – is no doubt important and interesting in legal terms. But the reporting of the incident that triggered the case has ben very one-sided and relies upon an alleged version of an alleged internal inquiry. It is unfairly biassed against the female involved. I suggest that this report be deleted from your blog.

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