What is Workplace Bullying and Harassment?

If you are experiencing workplace conflict or workplace bullying and harassment, chances are you do not know where to start in terms of understanding what your legal rights are and what you can do about it.

Believe it or not, many employees suffer in silence under the mistaken belief that they have no choice but to suck it up and grin and bear it. This is simply not true!

Ask yourself, have you ever been bullied or harassed at work? Maybe you’ve been subjected to a series of humiliating or intimidating comments. Or perhaps you’ve been excluded from work related events, or been made the victim of a relentless campaign of unjustified criticisms.

Whatever the case may be, if you’ve experienced workplace conflict or seen it happen to someone else, you know all too well just how detrimental it can be – not only for your career but also your mental health and well-being.

Remember that workplace bullying and harassment is unlawful. You have a right to enjoy a work environment free of this type of unreasonable behaviour. It is not something you should ever have to continue to endure.

What is Workplace Bullying and Harassment by Rubix Legal

So what exactly is bullying?

For most workers, the anti-bullying laws are set out in the Fair Work Act 2009.

Section 789FD of the Act provides that a worker is bullied at work if two criteria are met:

  • A person (or group of people) repeatedly behaves unreasonably towards a worker (or a group of workers) at work; AND
  • The behaviour creates a risk to health and safety.

In other words, for conduct to constitute bullying it must involve repeated behaviour or more than once instance. It must also pose the risk of injuring someone’s health or safety – such as their mental health.

Unreasonable behaviour typically includes actions that have the effect of humiliating, intimidating, victimising or threatening someone. Some examples include: aggressive conduct; belittling; spreading of malicious rumours; teasing or practical jokes; exclusion and isolation in the workplace; and unreasonable work expectations to name but a few.

The anti-bullying laws apply to employees, independent contractors, volunteers, students gaining work experience and outworkers.

Some stats on workplace bullying

Think you’re alone? Check out some of these unfortunate stats:
  • 92% of serious work-related mental health condition claims are attributed to work-related mental stress (note: work related stress includes bullying and harassment, work pressures, exposure to violence and other mental stress factors)
  • 51% of serious mental health conditions claims are caused by a combination of work-related harassment or bullying (20%), work pressure (21%) and exposure to occupational or workplace violence (10%)
  • In one study in 2016-2017, 37% of workers reported that they had previously been sworn or yelled at in the workplace*.
Workplace Bullying and Harassment by Rubix Legal

What is NOT bullying

Bullying does not apply to reasonable management action carried out in a reasonable way.

The idea here is that an employer or manager can take certain management actions, provided that it does so in a reasonable way.

For example, an employer or manager can:
  • Set realistic and achievable performance goals or expectations;
  • Decide not to select an employee for promotion where a reasonable process has been followed in reaching that decision;
  • Communicate performance concerns in an honest, fair and constructive way;
  • Take disciplinary action where justified in the circumstances.

It can often be difficult for employees to discern whether or not the management action is reasonable or has been carried out in a reasonable way. If you are unsure, it is best to get legal advice so you can be clear on whether the treatment you are experiencing is reasonable or not.

What can you do if you are being bullied and harassed at work?

The reality is that addressing workplace bullying and harassment is no easy task.

Isn’t it true that when we are in the midst of a challenging situation it is often very difficult to put into words what we are frustrated about? Our emotions can so easily cloud our judgement and this in turn makes it hard to put forward a convincing argument that we are absolutely being wronged.

Many employees are too afraid to complain about workplace bullying and harassment because they don’t understand their legal rights. For those who do speak up and make a complaint, often they are sorely disappointed by the outcome of their employer’s investigation. Many claims for workplace bullying fail because the employee has not sought advice on how to best build their case so that it gets the attention it deserves.

Nikolina Palasrinne – Principal & Founder – Rubix Legal

We are here to solve these problems!

As an experienced and trusted Employment Law Firm, we will put together a game plan on how to overcome workplace bullying and harassment. We’ll help you understand the legal position, build your evidence and advise you on the best way forward.

While each case is different, one thing remains the same – you deserve to find your voice in the workplace. You deserve to be treated fairly and justly.

Please Contact Us at Rubix Legal and talk to a legal expert for guidance on how to move forward.

*Source: Safe Work Australia National Data Set for Compensated-based statistics (2012 to 2017) and Safe Work Australia; and Safe Work Australia National Data Set for Bullying and Harassment in Australian workplaces: Results from the Australian Workplace barometer project 2014/2015.

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