The Fair Work Commission has refused to issue stop-bullying orders despite finding bullying had occurred due to an employer’s proactive measures to minimise the future risk of the behaviour continuing. Two employees applied for orders against their manager and employer, a bus charter and coach hire business. They alleged they were micromanaged, subjected to humiliating behaviour in front of colleagues, threatened with unnecessary disciplinary action and the manager attempted to coerce one employee into falsifying his log book in contravention of fatigue laws.
For the Commission to make bullying orders, they must be satisfied each employee was subject to repeated unreasonable behaviour whilst at work and the behaviour was not reasonable management action carried out in a reasonable manner. Commissioner Roe was satisfied the manager had engaged in inappropriate behaviour in finding bullying had occurred and concluded it was not reasonable management action “to treat drivers like naughty school children and to humiliate them.”
However, Commissioner Roe concluded whilst bullying was proven, the Commissions role “is not to punish but to take steps necessary to stop bullying.” When the business became aware of the manager’s behaviour they altered his duties to ensure he was no longer responsible for the supervision of drivers, investigating incidents or disciplining drivers. Although the manager remained in a training role, with the exception of one incident, the bullying incidents did not occur in his duties as a trainer. This sufficiently reduced the risk of further incidents occurring through ensuring minimal contact between the parties.
Commissioner Roe accepted the action of changing a role is not itself sufficient, however noted that recognising bullying had occurred will send a strong message to the manager to reduce the likelihood of further unreasonable action, and should assist the drivers to regain some confidence and dignity. One employee had refused to work unless there was an order prevent any contact between the parties, however this order was not granted, finding it would not be a practical or balanced response in the circumstances of the case.
Understanding the rights and responsibilities of both managers and employees is a pivotal step in creating a work environment free of harassment and bullying. Attend our Successfully Managing EO, Bullying and Diversity in the Workplace: Manager Session or have your employees attend our Successfully Managing EO, Bullying and Diversity in the Workplace: Employee Session so to increase knowledge of expected standards of behaviour.
Written by Rachael Hammond
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