What can you do about workplace bullying?
Bullying in the workplace is a serious issue that can be very difficult to deal with. There is no one agency you can go to if your complaint about bullying is not being dealt with by your employer, as the remedies you have are different depending on the circumstances.
- Public sector employers and larger employers will have written policies about how to raise concerns about bullying. This is the starting point. Even if you work in a small organisation without written policies, the starting point is to raise the issue with your employer. Of course, if the owner of the business is the person doing the bullying, this can be extremely difficult.
- Sometimes bullying is a form of discrimination – but this is only if the bullying treatment is because of an attribute covered by the discrimination laws. In Queensland this includes: sex, sexual orientation, marital status, pregnancy, parental status, age, race, impairment, religion, political belief or activity, trade union activity. Sexual harassment is also unlawful under discrimination laws. So if the bullying seems to be related to the fact that you have one of these attributes, you may have a claim for discrimination.
- Sometimes bullying is so serious it causes health effects, which amount to a “psychological injury” under the WorkCover system. WorkCover, however, does not provide compensation for psychological injury if it is caused by “reasonable management action taken in a reasonable way”. While there is a clear in principle distinction between bullying and reasonable management action, often the distinction is not so easy in practice when there are conflicting versions of the same incident.
- Fair Work Australia does not deal with general complaints of bullying and harassment. However, if your employer takes adverse action against you because of a complaint about bullying, you make have grounds to make an application to Fair Work Australia
Keeping accurate and contemporaneous notes of incidents is a good idea if you think you want to make a complaint about bullying and harassment. If you are a union member, you can go to your union for help. You may also be able to get help from the Queensland Working Women’s Service or the Young Workers’ Advisory Service (for 25 and under).
At Affording Justice we also provide advice and assistance in relation to workplace bullying.