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Bullying in the workplace: what rights do you have? – The Placement Prac

By Alan J. McDonald


Bullying is an unwelcome occurrence in many workplaces. McDonald Murholme Principal Lawyer Andrew Jewell discusses the rights of a bullied employee with The Placement Prac.

See below article for further details.

Bullying in the workplace: what rights do you have? – The Placement Prac

By McDonald Murholme Principal, Andrew Jewell

Bullying is an unwelcome occurrence in many workplaces, with recent research finding that more than half of all Australian employees will experience some form of bullying during their careers.

The research conducted by the University of Wollongong for beyondblue found that of those bullied, 40 per cent of people experienced workplace bullying early in their career and between five and seven per cent had been bullied in the previous six months.

It is important for all workplaces and employees to understand what constitutes bullying, and what is in fact reasonable management and direction.

What constitutes bullying?

The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) states that bullying occurs when someone repeatedly behaves unreasonably toward you or a group of workers that you are a part of, and this behaviour creates a risk to health and safety.

The Australian Human Rights Commission offers a definition of bullying behaviour as the following:

  • repeated hurtful remarks or attacks, or making fun of your work or you as a person (including your family, sex, sexuality, gender identity, race or culture, education or economic background),
  • sexual harassment, particularly stuff like unwelcome touching and sexually explicit comments and requests that make you uncomfortable,
  • excluding you or stopping you from working with people or taking part in activities that relates to your work,
  • playing mind games, ganging up on you, or other types of psychological harassment
  • intimidation (making you feel less important and undervalued),
  • giving you pointless tasks that have nothing to do with your job,
  • giving you impossible jobs that can’t be done in the given time or with the resources provided,
  • deliberately changing your work hours or schedule to make it difficult for you,
  • deliberately holding back information you need for getting your work done properly
  • pushing, shoving, tripping, grabbing you in the work place,
  • attacking or threatening with equipment, knives, guns, clubs or any other type of object that can be turned into a weapon, and;
  • Initiation or hazing – where you are made to do humiliating or inappropriate things in order to be accepted as part of the team.

What can you do if you feel you have been bullied?

In the first instance, report the bullying to a supervisor or manager, workplace health and safety representative or your human resources department who can provide advice on internal grievance policies. This may be difficult if you are being bullied by a manager or supervisor.

If the bullying continues, consider an application with the Fair Work Commission or the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission or a complaint to your state health and safety authority

If the bullying causes health issues requiring medical attention and/or time off work you can consider an application for workers compensation payments (under the Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2013 in Victoria).

With workplace bullying causing a myriad of issues, such as poor performance, increased anxiety, loss of self-esteem and isolation among countless others, it is vital that all workplaces treat each report of workplace bullying seriously and investigate them fully.

If you feel that you are bullied or harassed in your work place, seeking legal advice is recommended.

Reference: Bullying in the workplace: what rights do you have? The Placement Prac, 14th October 2016