Conviction for Bullying at the workplace

A food retail manager has been convicted and fined $7500 for bullying a storeman. The store manager pleaded guilty in the Sunshine Magistrates’ Court on 17 April to a single charge under sections 144(1) and 21(1)& (2)(a) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. He was also ordered to pay costs of $2000.

  • 21(1) Duties of employers to employees  (1)  An employer must, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain for employees of the employer a working environment that is safe and without risks to health.
  • 21 (2) Without limiting subsection (1), an employer contravenes that subsection if the employer fails to do any of the following— (a) provide systems of work that are, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health;

Sunshine Magistrates’ Court heard Store Manager’ s behavior towards the storeman included using language that was profane, belittling, degrading or offensive, and speaking in an aggressive intimidating or abusive manner. This behavior affected the storeman’s health, causing him distress, depression, fearfulness and tearfulness.

What is bullying? 

“Workplace bullying is persistent and repeated negative behavior directed at an towards a worker or group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety. Worksafe Victoria”

Bullying and harassment in an office can take many forms, Safework Australia outlines the following examples of bullying behavior:

  • Aggressive and intimidating behavior
  • Jokes or teasing at the expense of others
  • Pressuring others into inappropriate behavior
  • Exclusion from work-related social events and activities
  • Making unreasonable work demands

How should employers respond to bullying?

  • Developing and implementing bullying policy which clearly identifies expected behaviors and the consequences of not complying with the bullying policy.
  • Establishing standards of behavior in the company policy.
  • Establishing clear guidelines around the managers, supervisors, leaders of the organisation and the employees roles and responsibilities.
  • Sending clear messages to the workforce that the company is serious  in providing  healthy and safe workplace and a positive safety culture.

Commitment to managing workplace behavior starts with: 

  • Dealing with unreasonable behavior as soon as you become aware of it.
  • Ensuring that reports of bullying are taken seriously and properly investigated.
  • Consulting with workers.
  • Training the employees, managers, supervisors and the leaders of the organisation.

When is the last time your company reviewed the existing bullying policy?

Did you know? 

  • 1  in 3 women, and 1 in 5 men  who claim for a mental disorder stated it involved harassment or bullying.
  • 37% workers reported being sworn or yelled at in the workplace.

If you are suffering from depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts, or you’re worried about someone else and feel that urgent professional support is needed:

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