Psychiatric registrar failed to establish that she had been the subject of racial discrimination by her clinical supervisor

  • 16 Feb 2016

In a recent Federal Court decision a psychiatric registrar failed to establish that she had been the subject of racial discrimination by her clinical supervisor and the Director of Clinical Training.

The registrar alleged that the psychiatrists had subjected her to racial discrimination in the assessment of her clinical performance and by the introduction of a remediation plan to address areas they considered required improvement.

The court found that the registrar failed to establish any of the allegations that she had been subjected to racial discrimination in relation to the issuing of a mid-term evaluation report by her clinical supervisor and his request to the Director that the registrar be the subject of a remediation plan to address her unsatisfactory performance. There was a sufficient objective and plausible basis for her clinical supervisor’s comments in the mid-term report of issues which were impeding the registrar’s progress and which were unrelated to her national or ethnic origin. The clinical supervisor considered that the registrar had not shown sufficient satisfactory progress and recommended a remediation plan be developed by the Director of Clinical Training, with a substantial focus on communication, understanding and attitude. The court concluded that there was no reason to doubt the sincerity of her clinical supervisor’s declaration when he signed the report stating that it was made in good faith and considered to be true reflection of the registrar’s ability.

Whilst the registrar disputed her clinical supervisor’s assessment of her clinical performance, the court stated that it was not the arbiter of her clinical competence. The claim against her clinical supervisor was rejected, not least because the registrar failed to identify any requirement or condition imposed upon her which was not reasonable in all the circumstances.

In relation to the claim against the Director of Clinical Training who was asked to implement a remediation plan, the court unreservedly accepted his evidence that the decision to implement a remediation plan was not motivated by any consideration of her national or ethnic origin but was intended to positively assist the registrar to progress further in her traineeship. In deciding to implement the plan he took into account the information included in the mid-term evaluation report, his own experience of the registrar and other information he received about her.

The court found the Director of Clinical Training to be an impressive and truthful witness and accepted his evidence without qualification. The court stated that the doctor was not motivated or in any way influenced by the registrar’s national or ethnic origin in relation to the actions he took which affected her. On the contrary, the court found that at all times the Director of Clinical Training was endeavouring to assist the registrar to progress through the college training program and the conduct which the registrar complained of was in fact reasonable, professional and objectively well considered. The Director of Clinical Training was found to perform his role appropriately and with exemplary professionalism. The serious allegations made against him were without any evidentiary basis.

The registrar was ordered to pay the respondents costs.

Post by Karen Kumar and Cameron Leaver 

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