In a recent decision of the Fair Work Commission (FWC), employees who were the subject of workplace bullying have succeeded in obtaining formal stop bullying orders. The decision shows the measures the FWC is willing to implement when bullying is considered to be an ongoing risk.
Two employees of a small real estate business applied to the FWC for “stop bullying” orders following unreasonable conduct by a property manager. The alleged bullying included swearing, yelling, interfering with and undermining the employees’ work and threats of violence.
The employer conceded that the FWC could make a finding that bullying had occurred based on the undisputed evidence of all parties.
However, before it could make any orders, the FWC had to be satisfied that “there is a risk that the worker(s) will continue to be bullied at work ...”. In this case, although the property manager had resigned from her employment and was working from a different location, she was working for a related business and the FWC felt there was a real prospect that the applicants and the property manager would have future work related interactions.
By consent, the FWC made stop bullying orders with two main elements. First, the FWC ordered that the applicants and the property manager not approach each other and that they not attend the (other) business premises. Second, a number of initiatives were ordered that go to the broader conduct and culture within the workplace, for example the establishment and implementation of appropriate anti-bullying policies, procedures and training. The orders will remain in force for 24 months.
The FWC held that these orders were genuine preventative orders in the particular context, consistent with the purpose of the legislation.
In a rare move, the FWC issued the orders and the decision without identifying the parties involved. There can be good reasons in this kind of case for keeping the names out, but it does make the gossip less exciting.