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Michael Hill Australia was found to have breached its duty of care to an employee who was the victim of a failed robbery.
Michael Hill Australia was found to have breached its duty of care to an employee who was the victim of a failed robbery.

Michael Hill ordered to pay former employee more than $270,000

A Queensland court has awarded $270,439 in damages to a former salesperson at jewellery retail chain Michael Hill, who was left with psychiatric problems following an attempted robbery.

In court documents, Nicole Funnell claimed she began suffering from anxiety and panic attacks after a customer tried to snatch a gold necklace from her hands in November 2015.

The incident occurred when Funnell was working at a Michael Hill store at Westfield Helensvale shopping centre on the Gold Coast. A man entered the store and enquired about the necklace, and Funnell proceeded to remove it from a locked cabinet in order to check the price; the man then asked to ‘feel the weight’ of the chain.

“At the time, the jewellery store was designed as ‘open plan’ without doors or barriers. It also did not have a security guard, and did not display warning signs that CCTV cameras were monitoring the premises”

When Funnell requested to see the man’s drivers’ licence, he reached across the counter and attempted to grab the necklace – valued at $7,900 – from her hand. The piece broke in the ensuing struggle, and the man fled on foot.

At the time, the jewellery store was designed as ‘open plan’, without doors or barriers. It also did not have a security guard, and did not display warning signs that CCTV cameras were monitoring the premises.

Additionally, the Westfield Helensvale store had been subject to at least three previous robberies or attempted robberies prior to the Funnell incident, though the court was told Michael Hill Australia did not keep records of these incidents.

Funnell left her employment with Michael Hill Australia shortly after the attempted robbery, and was later diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder with elements of post-traumatic stress disorder. As a result, she claimed she was unable to work in jewellery retail and had struggled in other workplaces too.

Legal representatives for Michael Hill Australia argued that the attempted robbery did not cause Funnell ongoing psychiatric injury, instead attributing her symptoms to several earlier incidents. The company also stated that Funnell did not follow its sales procedures. 

In turn, Funnell claimed that she had not been appropriately trained in the safe handling of jewellery or risk assessment, nor given the means to ascertain the price of jewellery without removing it from a cabinet. 

Judge David Kent QC found that Michael Hill Australia breached its duty of care to its employee by failing to provide a safe working environment and adequate training. He awarded Funnell $270,439.33 to cover past and future loss of earnings, psychological treatment and medication, and general damages.

 

More reading:
Michael Hill changes website, removes diamond claims
Michael Hill's lab-grown diamond marketing may mislead consumers
Michael Hill underpaid staff by up to $25 million

 











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