The Fair Work Commission has ordered a property manager not to make contact with two employees who were found to have been bullied by the manager. The manager has also been ordered not to enter the workplace while the two employees are at work or to access their portfolios. The Commission also made reciprocal orders preventing the employees from making contact with the manager or entering the workplace where the property manager works.
In the recent case of CF, NW and Company A and ED  FWC 5272, two employees lodged separate ‘stop bullying’ applications in the Commission alleging that a property manager, who was their colleague, had engaged in:
- conduct belittling the employees;
- swearing, yelling and use of otherwise inappropriate language;
- daily interference with and undermining of the employees’ work;
- physical intimidation and slamming of objects on the employees’ desks;
- attempts to incite the employees to victimise other staff members; and
- threats of violence towards the employees.
The employer had previously attempted to resolve the complaints at the workplace level, which resulted in the property manager resigning and taking up a position with a related company that operated from a different location. Despite this, the Commission found that there was potential for interaction between the two businesses and their employees.
The Commission has power to make any order it considers appropriate (other than an order for payment of compensation) if it is satisfied that:
- the worker has been bullied at work; and
- there is a risk that the worker will continue to be bullied at work.
The Commission was satisfied that the employees had been bullied at work by the property manager notwithstanding that the manager was now employed by another related business, and found that there was a risk that they would continue to be bullied if measures were not implemented to enforce appropriate standards at the workplace.
In making the orders, the Commission took into account that the employer did not have any formal anti-bullying or grievance resolution procedures operating within the workplace. In addition to the orders requiring that the bully and the victims avoid each other, the Commission also ordered that the employer conduct anti-bullying training with all of its staff and implement an updated anti-bullying policy and complaints handling procedure at the workplace. The Commission further ordered that the bullying policy must set out appropriate future workplace behaviour and conduct.
The order remains in force for 24 months.
This was only the second published decision made under the ‘stop bullying’ provisions in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) that were introduced in early 2014. If an employer or individual breaches an order made under these provisions, they face penalties of up to $54,000 for a company and $10,800 for an individual for each breach.
This article originally appeared in Cooper Grace Ward’s Workplace Relations & Safety Risk Management Adviser – September 2015. Click here to download the full newsletter.