Workplace bullying has been a chronic problem in a small number of cases in many industries – particularly healthcare, education, childcare and not-for-profits. It is unlawful bullying to harass and intimidate a fellow employee in the workplace repeatedly and without justification to achieve an ulterior motive and creates a risk to health and safety.
The motive may be to humiliate or force the bullied employee to resign where there is no valid reason for that employee to do so. However, it is not bullying to demand that employees reach standards of performance which are reasonable and for which the employee has the skills and training to meet. It has been found to be difficult for employees who represent themselves to persuade the Commission to stop the bullying.
A Vice President and two other senior members have recently dismissed an appeal by a bullied employee. Bullying needs to be shown to be repetitive and not minor, see Hammon v. Metricon Homes Pty Ltd T/A Metricon Homes and others. The Commission appears to expect people to resolve matters through the conciliation process which requires skilful negotiation and a properly formulated claim. McDonald Murholme does provide that service.
What The Fair Work Commission Says About Workplace Bullying
Employees who represent themselves at The Fair Work Commission are often unsatisfied with the outcome.
In a recent case, a Commission Vice President and two other senior members dismissed an appeal made by an employee who had been bullied. To be successful, a workplace bullying claim needs to demonstrate that the bullying behaviour was repetitive and not minor in nature.
The Fair Work Commission often expects people to navigate the conciliation process when resolving matters. This involves careful negotiation and a strong claim that has been thoroughly formulated.
The workplace bullying solicitors at McDonald Murholme can partner with you to help you put your case forward and navigate the complexities of the Fair Work Commission.
You don’t have to act alone. Talk to our workplace abuse lawyers for expert assistance.
What Constitutes Workplace Bullying?
According to The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), an individual may be a victim of workplace bullying if they have been repeatedly subjected to unreasonable behaviours or actions that create health and safety risks.
Examples of workplace bullying may include:
- Pressure to complete excessive work
- Being threatened or isolated by a fellow employee or manager
- Ongoing threats of demotion or sacking
- Ongoing unjust criticism
- Being continually blamed for the mistakes of a manager or another employee
- Verbal abuse or physical assault
- Setting unreasonable deadlines
Workplace bullying can be much more insidious than simple acts of harassment, and it can even infringe on your basic rights and entitlements as an employee.
For example, a business that is struggling may impose unrealistic goals on employees and later harass them for not meeting these unachievable targets. The ultimate goal of this bullying may be to manufacture a reason to sack the employees or push them to resign. In this case, the employees have been bullied and they have possibly missed out on a redundancy payment they were genuinely entitled to.
How to Successfully Stop Workplace Bullying
You may be tempted to take your case to the Fair Work Commission, but this isn’t always the best course of action. It may be a mistake to lodge a workplace bullying complaint if more suitable remedies are available.
McDonald Murholme can provide effective strategies and answers to suit your circumstances. If lodging a workplace bullying complaint is the best course of action for your needs, McDonald Murholme can guide you from start to finish. Your employer will probably hire a lawyer to “take your case apart”, so seeking expert legal advice is highly recommended.
Examples of Workplace Bullying
Wrongfully, a bullied employee might be required to perform an excessive work level, be isolated or threatened by a fellow employee. It is not just managers who might bully an employee; it could be a competitor for a job promotion or the like. Sometimes it can be done by a manager needing a scapegoat upon whom to shed blame for the manager’s incompetence or error. Other times it is to allow a new manager to bring in a friend or ally.
The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) defines that a worker is bullied at work if (see below):
- While the worker is at work in a constitutionally covered business:
- An individual; or
- A group of individuals;
- Repeatedly behaves unreasonably towards the worker and that behaviour creates a risk to health and safety.
What must be of real concern to any bullied employee is that the workplace bullying is actually an orchestrated attempt to deny that bullied employee an employment right or entitlement. For example, if a company’s business is in decline – sales might be down – the management might impose unrealistic sales targets only to later bully the employees not meeting those targets which are demonstrably unachievable. The bullied employee might feel pushed to resign or be sacked. All the while, the bullied employee is possibly entitled to a genuine redundancy.
What Should an Employee do to Successfully Stop Workplace Bullying
We provide answers and effective strategies. It could be a mistake to lodge a workplace bullying complaint to the Fair Work Commission if other more suitable or appropriate remedies are available.
If you feel like you are being bullied at work and wish to lodge a bullying complaint, it should be checked by a lawyer. The recipient usually will employ a lawyer to ‘take it apart’.
Please don’t hesitate to speak to an experienced employment lawyer at McDonald Murholme.
If your company is not complying with the law, call us on (03) 9650 4555
Contact the Workplace Bullying Lawyers at McDonald Murholme
Our experienced employment lawyers are available to assist you. We are passionate about working with employees to reach the best possible outcome!
For expert legal advice, call us on (03) 9650 4555.
Everyone deserves to be able to go to work without facing bullying or harassment. It doesn’t matter if you are a junior employee, a senior executive, a salaried worker, or a contractor. Since 2013 Australia has had effective Stop Bullying laws. Often the bullied employee cannot continue in the workplace so wants more than a Stop Bullying direction to the employer from the Fair Work Commission. Therefore many Stop Bullying claims made by employees result in compensation, even though that is not the purpose of the law. An employee must not be frightened to lodge a Stop Bullying claim and an employer needs to avoid Stop Bullying claims by careful observance of its workforce. An employer can readily defend a Stop Bullying complaint by demonstrating that its actions were part of good management practice (trying to create an efficient, productive workplace) and not bullying. The Fair Work Commission offers an excellent mediation service but it is wise not to expect the Fair Work Commission to be more than an honest broker, whether you are an employee or employer that matters are so serious as to warrant professional legal support.
What Do Workplace Harassment and Bullying Look Like?
Harassment comes in many different forms, including verbal, physical, psychological, and sexual.
Physical workplace harassment may take the form of physical attacks or threats of physical violence made towards an employee. Depending on the circumstances, physical workplace harassment may constitute assault.
Verbal and psychological harassment are among the most common forms of workplace bullying. This behaviour is generally negative and unreasonable. It is often repeated and targeted towards one worker or a group of employees. Psychological and verbal harassment can constitute a risk to your health and safety.
When Workplace Harassment Constitutes Discrimination or Harassment
Harassment claims are often very difficult to establish, not merely because it is one persons word against another, but also because many employees are not prepared to give evidence against their employer. Nevertheless, individuals are protected from discrimination during their employment under the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth). If verbal harassment or any other kind of harassment constitutes discrimination, your employer may be in breach of Division 4 of the Australian Human Rights Commission Act (Cth).
Verbal harassment can also take the form of sexual harassment, which is unlawful under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) and the Victorian Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic). According to these acts, sexual harassment may constitute any circumstances where an employee would be humiliated, intimidated, or offended. This includes:
- Making statements or remarks to or about an individual that are sexual in nature
- Making actions, gestures, or comments of a sexual nature in the presence of a person
- Any situation involving forced physical intimacy
For legal advice, call McDonald Murholme.
Experienced Workplace and Harassment Lawyers: Based in Melbourne & Serving Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra, and Australia Wide
Based in Melbourne, the McDonald Murholme team has worked on workplace harassment disputes for more than three decades.
Our expert legal team is led by Mr Alan McDonald, Victoria’s most experienced employment lawyer for employees. Throughout his professional career, Mr McDonald has trained and mentored more than 200 Australian employment lawyers, and he continues to share his experience and insights with clients from all walks of life – including matters related to workplace harassment.
Unlike other employment law firms in Melbourne, McDonald Murholme proudly serves the whole of Australia and can also provide Australian employment law advice to international clients.
If you currently need workplace harassment lawyers in Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra, or further afield, McDonald Murholme is here to assist. Please read through the information provided on this page for further insights into Australian workplace harassment laws and protocols.
Talk to the Work Harassment Lawyers at McDonald Murholme
If you are being subjected to harassment or bullying in the workplace and you wish to seek legal advice, McDonald Murholme is here to help you. To consult with an expert, compassionate, friendly team, call 9650 4555 or enquire online.
Get in touch with the employment lawyer who has acted for thousands of employees like you.
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The McDonald Murholme team is headed by Mr Alan McDonald.Contact Us
Workplace bullying is repeated unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety of the worker.
To file a stop bullying order, the bullying must have occurred more than once.
If you feel uncomfortable making a complaint to the manager who is carrying out the bullying, you may make the complaint to an alternative employee with the relevant authority. Alternatively, you can file a stop bullying order with the Fair Work Commission. McDonald Murholme has lawyers on hand to guide you through the process and assist with the submission.
If you have exhausted all the above and are still unable to stop the bullying, you may feel as though there is no option but to resign. McDonald Murholme recommends seeking legal advice before you resign to discuss your exit, or whether resignation would amount to a constructive dismissal.
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