Workplace bullying can have a devastating effect on victims, but not many people understand what constitutes bullying, according to lawyer and seconded consultant George Calderon from Discrimination Claims.
“We get a lot of phone calls from workers who think they are being bullied, when in fact, they are just being performance managed by their boss,” he said.
“Bullying has a very specific definition – and it’s different from discrimination and sexual harassment.”
What is bullying
The Fair Work Ombudsman says a worker if bullied if:
- a person or group of people repeatedly act unreasonably towards them or a group of workers
- the behaviour creates a risk to health and safety
Unreasonable behaviour includes victimising, humiliating, intimidating or threatening.
“The key words to keep in mind are that the behaviour is repeated, and that it creates a risk to health and safety,” Mr Calderon said.
“So if someone is repeatedly being subjected to aggressive behaviour or they are being repeatedly teased or excluded from work events, and then they are going home and crying and feeling depressed and drinking to cope, then that could constitute a case of workplace bullying.”
Examples of bullying
The Fair Work Ombudsman says examples of bullying include:
- behaving aggressively
- teasing or practical jokes
- pressuring someone to behave inappropriately
- excluding someone from work-related events or
- unreasonable work demands.
What is not bullying
Mr Calderon says management action that is carried out in a reasonable way is not bullying.
“Many workers get upset when the boss makes tough decisions, or tells them that they are performing poorly, or if the boss takes some sort of disciplinary action, but as long as it is done in a reasonable way, then that is not bullying,” Mr Calderon said.
“Bosses are allowed to performance manage their staff – just so long as it is done in a reasonable way.”
Anyone in the workplace can be a bully
Mr Calderon said that bullying can be perpetrated not only by work colleagues, but anyone in the workplace.
“For example, claims can be made against other people including clients or customers or contractors,” he said.
“Regular patrons at a bar that bully a barmaid or bartender, or abusive clients, and generally anyone in a workplace that present a bullying risk to the aggrieved worker.”
What to do if you are being bulled
National laws protect workers, students on work experience, contractors and volunteers from workplace bullying.
Mr Calderon says workers can make a formal complaint to their manager or Human Resources department, or they can contact a firm like Discrimination Claims, which represents victims of workplace bullying.
“We can approach employers on behalf of workers to make sure the behaviour is stopped,” he said.
“We can also take cases to the Fair Work Commission, Anti-Discrimination Commission, or the Human Rights Commission, and make claims for compensation.
“Everybody has the right to not be bullied or harassed at work. If people are being subjected to this sort of conduct, we can help.”
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If you have experienced bullying or harassment at work, you may be entitled to compensation.
For help, please call our team at Discrimination Claims
1300 853 837
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