Workplace bullying is a serious issue which can have disastrous impacts on your mental and physical wellbeing. If you are currently experiencing, or have experienced, bullying in the workplace, Segelov Taylor Lawyers can assist to clarify your legal rights and help you seek a remedy.
What is Workplace Bullying?
Workplace bullying encompasses a range of behaviours, many of which initially may appear harmless, particularly when viewed out of context. Indeed, a classic type of bullying is to diminish response as an overreaction. Behaviours build up over time and cause real mental and physical harm. Very serious incidents of inappropriate behaviour in the workplace may start out as ‘jokes’, before escalating.
Your employer has a legal duty of care to provide a safe work environment, as far as reasonably practicable. If your employer does not take reasonable steps to prevent workplace bullying, your employer is not meeting their legal responsibility.
Legally, a behaviour must be repeated and unreasonable so that it creates a risk to health and safety for it to be workplace bullying.
Some common examples of workplace bullying include:
- Aggressive physical or verbal behaviour
- Unjustified criticism
- Psychological harassment like playing mind games or ganging up on you
- Teasing and ‘practical jokes’
- Excluding or isolating people in the workplace
- Unreasonable work demands or deliberately making your work schedule difficult
Bullying does not have to be physical abuse – it can be verbal, social or psychological. Bullying in the workplace can be by an employer/ manager, or another workmate or colleague in the workplace. Bullying can happen in any type of workplace environment, whether that is an office, a café or a remote worksite. Bullying can be in-person or by other means of communication, such as by email or on social media.
A single incident is not generally workplace bullying. However, if someone’s behaviour begins to repeat or escalate it is important to keep a record of what happened and how you responded in case you need to make a complaint. This will be helpful to establish how persistent the behaviour is and whether it was unreasonable.
Whether something is unreasonable must be seen in light of the circumstances and requires an assessment of what a hypothetical “reasonable person” may consider is appropriate or necessary. This means that not everything that happens at work that makes a person upset is workplace bullying: for example, management is entitled to make decisions about how you work and your performance, as long as they are reasonable.
What Can I Do if Workplace Bullying has Occurred?
If you think you have been subject to workplace bullying, you have a number of options. In the first instance, it is important to report the incidents to a manager or someone else in the workplace, like Human Resources. Employers have a duty of care while you are at work, and this includes ensuring your health and well-being. They may be able to intervene and put a stop to any potential bullying before it escalates. Beyond the workplace, the union applicable to your industry may be able to offer you advice about your rights as an employee and what you can do next.
A further option that is available if you are still employed where the bullying is alleged to have occurred and you think that it is unlikely to stop is to take action at the Fair Work Commission. If the Commission agrees that you have been bullied, they can make a number of orders to prevent it, including preventing individuals from communicating or attending work, commissioning specific training for your employer about how to deal with workplace bullying and seeking legal assurances that your employer will comply with a workplace bullying policy.
Bullying and Discrimination
If someone is bullying you for reasons such as your race, religion, sex, pregnancy status, sexual orientation or age, this conduct may constitute discrimination and therefore also break anti-discrimination laws. Bullying in the workplace can also potentially constitute a criminal offence. For instance, if in the course of being bullied you experience assault or other violence, you may be able to take the matter directly to the police.
Segelov Taylor Lawyers Can Help
If you have experienced bullying or discrimination in the workplace, Segelov Taylor Lawyers can advise you on your legal options. Our principal, David Taylor is an accredited specialist in employment and industrial law and has 20 years of experience in handling employment and harassment matters.