Harassment and Bullying for Employees

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

Harassment and Bullying for Employees

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

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 has 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 loos 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, 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. It is always advisable to seek guidance beforehand from an experienced employment law firm such as Peters Bosel Lawyers.

What constitutes bullying and harassment?

The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) defines 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”.

The key phrases are further defined as follows:

  • “Repeated behaviour” is demonstrated if there is persistent, unreasonable behaviour of the same kind, or various types, over a period of time.
  • “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;
  • Humiliating or making belittling comments;
  • teasing or practical jokes;
  • victimisation;
  • creating and spreading malicious rumours;
  • pressuring someone to behave inappropriately;
  • excluding someone from work-related events; and
  • making unreasonable work demands.

It should be noted that you don’t need to be the specific target of the bullying 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 or if you are observing such behaviour.

First steps include 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/complaints procedure at your workplace, which should outline how your organisation will prevent and respond to workplace bullying.

If the matter cannot be resolved using the workplace’s processes, 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.  The Commission has power to make orders to prevent bullying at work, however, will only make such orders if the employee can demonstrate that the behaviour constitutes bullying and there is a risk of further bullying. Employees can also contact state occupational health and safety authorities

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, expert legal advice.  If needed, we can assist with preparing a properly constructed complaint in an acceptable evidentiary form.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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.

Need advice? - contact our firm