Bullying and Harassment for Employees

If you feel you’ve been bullied or harassed at work seek guidance from an experienced employment law specialist such as Peters Bosel Lawyers.

What To Do If You’re Being Bullied At Work

Experiencing bullying or harassment at work can be a humiliating and demeaning experience no one should have to endure.

Fortunately, the awareness of employers and the wider legal environment about the frequency of such behaviour, and its damaging effects have improved markedly in recent years.

Safe Work Australia’s 2014–15 Australian Workplace Barometer Project, which surveyed more than 4,200 workers nationwide, found that workers with psychological distress caused by issues such as bullying and harassment took four times as many sick days per month and had a 154 per cent higher performance loss at work than those not experiencing psychological distress.

The responsibility of employers to prevent workplace bullying and harassment is set out in a number of statutory instruments, including the Fair Work Act 2009, federal and state anti-discrimination laws, and federal and state health and safety legislation.

If you feel you’ve been bullied or harassed at work you have a number of avenues to complain and seek redress, detailed below, though it is always advisable to seek guidance beforehand from an experienced employment law specialist such as Peters Bosel Lawyers.

What constitutes bullying and harassment?

The Fair Work Commission suggests that bullying of a worker occurs “when a person or group of people repeatedly act unreasonably towards them or a group of workers” and “the behaviour creates a risk to health and safety”.

“Unreasonable behaviour” can include victimising, humiliating, intimidating or threatening behaviour. The objective legal standard of “unreasonable” is whether a reasonable person might view the behaviour as unreasonable in the circumstances.

Examples of bullying include:

  • Behaving aggressively;
  • teasing or practical jokes;
  • pressuring someone to behave inappropriately;
  • excluding someone from work-related events;
  • making unreasonable work demands or changing

Examples of behaviour constituting harassment can include:

  • Telling insulting jokes about particular racial groups;
  • sending explicit or sexually suggestive emails or text messages;
  • displaying racially offensive or pornographic posters or screen savers;
  • making derogatory comments or taunts about a person’s disability;
  • asking intrusive questions about someone’s personal life, including his or her sex life.

It should be noted that you don’t need to be the specific target of the buying or harassing behaviour to make a complaint about such conduct. Employers have a responsibility to ensure a safe and healthy workplace, so if such behaviour makes you feel your work environment is neither safe nor healthy, you may have reason to seek redress.

What steps should you take to stop the behaviour?

There are a number of courses of action you can potentially take if you feel you’ve been a victim of bullying or harassment at work.

First steps are likely talking to an appropriate person at your workplace, such as a supervisor or manager. You may also wish to speak with a workplace health and safety representative, the company’s human resources department, a union or an employment lawyer.

In particular, check the bullying policy and reporting procedure at your workplace, which should outline how your organisation will prevent and respond to workplace bullying.

You can also take action by lodging an application with the Fair Work Commission to stop the bullying. The Commission provides an eligibility quiz at its website before you proceed on this course. Under the Fair Work Act 2009 the Commission has powers to make orders to prevent bullying at work. Employees can also contact state occupational health and safety authorities or the Australian Human Rights Commission to make a complaint about workplace bullying or harassment.

Recognising what’s not bullying behaviour

Employees need to ensure they don’t confuse reasonable actions by an employer with bullying or harassment.

Managers are entitled to monitor the quality and timeliness of work, and provide staff with feedback both informally and within performance review mechanisms. It’s only when these actions become humiliating or demeaning, or conform to those behaviours outlined above, that such management action can be characterised as “unreasonable”.

If you are unsure about whether you’ve experienced bullying or harassment at work, or how to proceed if you have, call Peters Bosel Lawyers today and avail yourself of experienced, specialist legal advice.

Contact our team today.