What is workplace bullying?
Everyone has the right to work in a safe environment. Unfortunately, sometimes that doesn’t happen and workers can suffer bullying, harassment or even discrimination that makes their work-life difficult.
WorkSafe Queensland describes workplace bullying as ‘repeated’ and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety.
However, in reality, this behaviour can come from anyone in the workplace: your employer, employee or client, or even a customer.
Workplace bullying may involve sexual harassment, or it may have psychological consequences to the abused. Some bullying that happens in the workplace is verbally abusive or involves physical altercations. It could be harassment that stems from discrimination of a person’s race, religion, gender, body type or position in the workplace.
Work bullying or harassment could include:
- aggressive (and even passive-aggressive) behaviour
- practical jokes
- humiliating or condescending remarks
- exclusion from group events and vital information
- unreasonable work expectations.
These are only a few examples, but the important thing is that they can all affect someone and work performance may shift seriously whereby the employee misses out on a pay rise or an opportunity to advance their career. The bullying may affect someone so badly that they end up losing their job and source of income.
How bullying can affect you
Workplace bullying and harassment have the potential to cause health issues, or the ability to do your job and even your desire to show up and do the work expected.
If it is not resolved, it can affect become a health and safety matter, including:
- cause stress, anxiety, depression and loss of sleep
- physical illnesses, like headaches and stomach aches
- distractedness in the workplace, which could be dangerous in some workplaces like warehouses and hospitals
- low confidence and self-esteem, and even suicidal thoughts or behaviour.
What to do about bullying in the workplace?
Many bullying situations can be resolved through open communication. If you are being bullied, try to speak to the person responsible if you feel safe doing so.
If you don’t feel safe, you should speak to your supervisor, human resources or a union rep.
If you’re unsatisfied with the result of this communication, you don’t have to give up and accept the behaviour. You can complain with the Fair Work Commission. They have the power to make orders preventing the person from continuing the harassing behaviour.
However, unfortunately, you’re not entitled to this option in:
- an organisation of volunteers
- a sole trader or partnership
- some state government departments and non-corporate state public sector agencies
- some local governments
- corporations without significant trading or financial activities
- the Defence Force.
There is a point where getting legal help might be your best course of action.
Getting Professional Help
At any stage, you can get a workplace bullying/harassment lawyer to advise you on your options.
Depending on the circumstances, workplace bullying may be covered by:
- Fair Work Act 2009
- discrimination law
- unfair dismissal law
- employment contract law
- enterprise agreements in the workplace
- occupational health and safety law.
You may be able to claim if the employer has breached its health and safety duty of care in not addressing this problem or any of the above laws.
At Main Lawyers, a workplace bullying attorney can give you advice, representing you with your employer and helping you get compensation if, unfortunately, it has gone further and you have suffered illness or loss of income due to the bullying.
If it is having this impact on your life and livelihood, it needs to stop.
How to proceed
The important thing is to not wait for things to improve by themselves. Take action early to stop it. And keep as many records as possible – emails, notes, your employment contract and any medical records that may be relevant. If you need to get legal assistance, all these records will help.
Get a free, no-obligation appointment with one of the workplace bullying lawyers here at Main Lawyers to discuss your options.