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Formal ‘stop bullying’ order made by FWC

The Fair Work Commission has handed down a rare ‘stop bullying’ order after a formal finding that two employees had been bullied.

The employees of a small real estate business each made an application for an order to stop bullying. The employees alleged bullying conduct by a particular Property Manager, who was subsequently relocated to a related entity of the employer following the bullying complaints.

Whilst the decision did not contain full descriptions of the behaviour that was complained of, Commissioner Hampton did note that the behaviour was said to include belittling conduct; swearing, yelling and use of otherwise inappropriate language; daily interfering and undermining the employees’ work; physical intimidation and “slamming” of objects on the applicants’ desks; attempts to incite the employees to victimise other staff members; and threats of violence.

In his decision, Commissioner Hampton noted that the employer had conceded that bullying conduct by the Property Manager had occurred. The employer also conceded that the behaviour “may have created a risk to [the] health and safety” of the employees.

Commissioner Hampton noted that there was a ‘real’ risk that the employees might continue to be bullied at work, despite the Property Manager being relocated. He said that this was because of the common ownership of the businesses and the fact that the Property Manager had already seconded back to the Employer.

Commissioner Hampton went on to Order ‘that the applicants and [the Property Manager] do not approach each other and that they not attend the (other) business premises’. He also ordered the employer to establish appropriate anti-bullying policies, and then provide training on such policies.

Implications for employers: This is only the second ‘stop bullying’ order made by the FWC since the introduction of the bullying jurisdiction over 18 months ago. The jurisdiction has been surprisingly under-utilised since its creation which may, in part, be a reflection of the fact that no monetary compensation can be awarded to employees who bring an application before it.

Lisa Aitken is an accredited specialist in workplace relations law and the principal of Aitken Legal, a law firm specialising in employment law for employers. The information in this column is intended as a guide only.  Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.

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