The Fair Work Commission has issued its first, formal anti-bullying judgment in a case involving two employees at a small real estate firm.
The commission can issue ‘stop bullying orders’ when individuals are found guilty of bullying behaviour beyond ‘reasonable management action’.
The employees were subject to bullying and harassment by a property manager who subjected them to inappropriate and aggressive language, physical intimidation and threats of violence, attempts to incite victimisation of other staff members and undermining of the quality of their work. As a result, the employees took leave from work and claimed workers’ compensation to receive medical treatment.
An informal investigation was conducted by the organisation, and the manager was moved to another branch of the agency. However, in its ruling, the FWC stated that the manager’s behaviour created a risk to employees, and thus the move to another branch was not sufficient to stop the behaviour reoccurring.
“Without measures being implemented to set and enforce appropriate standards of behaviour in the workplace, there was risk of further relevant unreasonable conduct,” says Commissioner Peter Hampton.
Commissioner Hampton went on to order the employer to establish and implement workplace anti-bullying policies, procedures and training to address the culture within the organisation. It is essential for organisations to develop policies that identify bullying behaviour, enforce these policies, and respond swiftly and appropriately to any breaches.
A workplace bullying policy should contain:
- A statement about appropriate behaviour and what is expected of employees at all levels;
- A definition of what constitutes workplace bullying and a commitment by the organisation to not tolerate this type of behaviour;
- A list of people’s rights in relation to workplace bullying;
- The formal and informal procedures available to employees for resolving incidents of workplace bullying, as well as information about conducting an investigation; and
- Any training requirements that employees need to undertake in relation to bullying in the workplace.