Am I Being Bullied At Work?
We all have distinct memories of the school yard bully, but what happens when bullying transitions past childhood and into the workplace? When does it go further than competitive behaviours in the workplace and can be defined as bullying at work?
The Fair Work Act 2009 defines bullying at work as an individual or group repeatedly behaving unreasonably towards a worker or group of workers at work. This behaviour must also create a risk to health and safety.
For example, if you are at the receiving end of humiliating comments, the spreading of malicious rumours, teasing, aggressive behaviour, or unreasonable work expectations, these can all constitute bullying at work.
What Is Not Classified As Bullying?
Any behaviour that is considered to be reasonable management action carried out in a reasonable manner is not considered to be bullying as defined by the Fair Work Act.
What Steps Can I Take To Stop Bullying?
If you are being bullied at work, the we recommend first attempting to resolve it with your employer by making a formal complaint. It's important also to remember that making a complaint about bullying is a protected workplace right. It is unlawful for your employer to retaliate against you because of the complaint.
If that does not resolve your issue, you can lodge an application for an order to stop bullying with the Fair Work Commission (provided you are covered by the Federal employment system). This is discussed further below but it's important to remember that this application does not entitle you to financial compensation, unless the order is subsequently breached by your employer.
MKI legal can also assist you with negotiating with your employer. Sometimes getting a lawyer involved can have more impact and increase your chances of getting a positive outcome.
It's important also to remember that making a complaint about bullying is a protected workplace right. It is unlawful for your employer to retaliate against you because of the complaint.
We often find that bullying often plays a part in a larger claim, such as an unfair dismissal or a general protections claim - and these types of claims can provide you with financial compensation.
We regularly advise employees who are bullied at work, and we regularly lodge claims which have a bullying element.
Stop Bullying Order Application With Fair Work?
You must submit a Form F72, application for an order to stop workplace bullying to the Fair Work Commission.
Mediation conducted by the Fair Work Commission is usually the first step to resolve your bullying complaint.
If you and your employer cannot reach an agreement then a formal hearing may be the next appropriate avenue.
Remedies With A Stop Bullying Order
At a hearing, the Fair Work Commission is able to make an appropriate order to prevent any further bullying of you, for example, an order for the perpetrators to cease the bullying.
A stop bullying order can only be made while you are still employment with that employer.
It is important to be aware that compensation is not an option unless there is a breach of any Commission orders. If that occurs, the Commission can order fines or compensation to be paid to you.
Previous Stop Bullying Decisions
For an idea of how a stop bullying order may assist you, two previous case are summarised below.
The applicant (Bayly) was an executive director at a TAFE. The applicant made an application for a stop bullying order. Concurrently, the employer was conducting an investigation into alleged misconduct by the applicant. The applicant claimed that this investigation only arose after she lodged a complaint regarding another staff member and as such constituted bullying conduct.
Prior to the hearing of the anti-bullying application, the applicant applied for, and successfully obtained an interim order halting the disciplinary investigation or termination of her employment.
The applicant (Ari) applied for a stop bullying order for alleged bullying by his uncle at his workplace. It was alleged that intimidating behaviours occurred as well as verbal disparagement.
An interim order was made to prevent further escalation of the behaviours into potential acts of physical violence. The order required Ari and his uncle:
- not to communicate directly with one another at work; and
- not to cause another person to relay disparaging comments or messages to each other; and
- not to come within 10m of one another.
Further, the workplace was ordered to implement workplace bullying training, policies and procedures.
Contact us for a free discussion if you are being bullied at work.