With the introduction of the new anti-bullying regime in Australia’s Fair Work Commission, it is astonishing that only 1 out of 874 applications for suits against workplace bullying has been granted.
It is said that hundreds of complaints were anticipated upon the first month of the new regime, but surprisingly, none of the employees have filed. Lawyers are of the opinion that there are several reasons for employers to simply endure bullies at work rather than to file a law suit. One reason would be that employers often receive no compensation at all, as the regime only takes action for the bullying to stop. Adding to this lack of a form of indemnity is the narrow definition of bullying which makes it hard for a successful claim. Lastly, it is also speculated that most think that complaints are not dealt with quickly.
Bullying is defined as a repeated unreasonable conduct with a potential to cause a health and safety risk. Making this narrow definition worse is the defense of Reasonable Management. Reasonable Management exempts the act of bullying and such claim would easily dismiss the complaint. The definition also construes for the fact that if the act is not ‘repeated’, then it is not ‘bullying.’ In addition, those who have received the worker’s compensation could no longer file a bullying claim. For instance, the indemnity it provides deemed worker’s compensation the better option.
Unfortunately, legal representation against workplace bullies is not considered an option by many due to its being costly in terms of money, time, anticipation, and effort.
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One of the speakers in a workplace forum held in New Zealand, which was conducted by CultureSafe, said that workplace bullying is just as prevalent as domestic violence. Robyn Hutchison is a promoter of employees taking a stand after she experienced an unjustified dismissal in May 2011. Hutchinson even won the employment case she filed against her former employer over the dismissal.
She went on to state that at least one in five employees experience being bullied at work. Hutchinson added that the prevalence of work place bullies in organizations stems from the reluctance of victims to stand up against the bullying and to speak out. Similar to how victims of domestic violence deal with their situations, some may be hesitant to let other people know of the abusive behavior they encounter at home. The same can be said for employees who were bullied at work. Most of the time, bullied employees chose to remain silent and tried their best to cope with the situation.
However, this has a negative effect on bully victims, not only in terms of their productivity at work, it also impacts their health, both mentally and physically. In worst cases, it can also lead to the victim contemplating thoughts of suicide.
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A recent bullying case presented to the Fair Work Commission involving two employees and a property manager, had the Commission issue an order for both parties to avoid each other at work. The two employees filed separate applications with the Commission about an alleged workplace bullying incident involving the same property manager. The two employees claimed that the bully manager used physical intimidation, belittled the employees, yelled at and used inappropriate language at the work place, among others.
The incident was previously raised to the employer of these bullying victims and the property manager, which reportedly resulted to the manager’s resignation. However, the bully manager was employed at a related company that operated in a different work location. Despite the distance, the Fair Work Commission found that there is a probability that these three may meet or have future interactions. This prompted the Commission to mandate the bully manager not to interact with the two employees or access their profiles, including barring the property manager from entering the workplace while the two employees are at work. The same order was given to the bullying victims. The Commission also said the order will remain in force for 2 years.
The Commission’s mandate may seem a little harsh or even funny to some, but for victims of workplace bullies, this gives them added protection and comfort in knowing that they won’t experience further bullying from the manager. It also allows them to feel more secure in the work place after being subjected to such a negative working environment.
To read more about the case, as well as other mandates the Commission ordered the company to do, click here.
A report from the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) revealed that the country’s medical industry has a “toxic culture” particularly among Australia’s surgery departments. Said departments are reportedly filled with sexual harassment and workplace bullying.
Professor David Watters, President of RACS, said that the victims of workplace bullies and sexual harassers shared their stories and described the devastating impact it had on their personal and professional lives. According to the report, nearly half of Australian surgeons experienced discrimination, bullying and harassment at work.
What’s alarming is that 40 percent of surgical fellows, trainees and international medical graduates reported they were victims of work bullies. Meanwhile, nearly 20 percent of surgeons admitted to having experienced discrimination and workplace harassment. Sexual harassment incidents also measured 7 percent, mostly against women.
The numbers are quite daunting and it doesn’t paint a good picture of Australia’s medical industry. It seems that speaking up also isn’t working since most of the reported sexual harassment cases reportedly continued on even after the complaint was raised. It raises the question of whether medical institutions in the country have the proper procedures, policies and correct focus to solve or help with workplace bullying and harassment.
It also is sad that the “toxic culture” is preventing victims from making a formal complaint. The affected workers and professionals are worried that it may have a negative impact on their career. Some have even termed speaking up as “career suicide.” A respondent reportedly said, “I still fear that he could ruin my reputation and destroy my life.” What a scary working environment to be in.
Meanwhile, the RACS promised to come up with an action plan by November, to address workplace bullying and harassment.
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