Bullying and harassment in the workplace is unacceptable
You have a right to work in a safe environment that is free from bullying, harassment, unlawful discrimination and occupational violence. Workplace bullying and harassment can impact people’s health, their work performance and the enjoyment of their job. If you or someone you know is being harassed or bullied at work, there are a number of steps you can take.
Most workplaces have policies and procedures for dealing with such cases, and designated representatives you can speak to confidentially and impartially to help you make informed decisions about how to resolve your complaint. In addition, there are a number of government support agencies you can call on for advice.
What is workplace bullying?
Workplace bullying involves the repetitive, prolonged abuse of power directed at one or more workers that could or does result in humiliation, offence, intimidation and distress. Bullying can take many forms, such as publicly humiliating someone, verbal abuse, cyber-bullying, sexual harassment or spreading malicious rumours. In assessing whether behaviour is unreasonable, you should consider if an impartial person observing the situation would think it’s reasonable or acceptable for a person or group of persons to behave that way.
Bullying in the workplace can be directed downwards from managers to workers, between co-workers, or even upwards from workers to managers.
Workplace bullying can create a toxic work environment and have a detrimental effect on yours and others' health and wellbeing. This may include:
- Severe psychological distress, sleep disturbances and anxiety
- General ill-health such as stomachaches and headaches
- Incapacity to work, reduced output and performance
- Loss of self-confidence, self-esteem and sometimes even suicidal behaviour.
In some circumstances, if you have suffered injuries or illnesses that arise out of, or in the course of, your employment because you have been bullied at work, you may be entitled to a range of benefits and compensation under the workers' compensation scheme.
What is workplace harassment?
Workplace harassment is unwanted behaviour that is likely to offend, humiliate or intimidate a person, and which is based on personal attributes such as:
- Marital status
The harassment may occur at your place of work, or at workplace events (such as Christmas parties), and may be physical or psychological.
There are steps you can take if you are being bullied or harassed at work
Request that the behaviour stop
If you can, firmly and politely let the person know that their behaviour is unreasonable and ask them to stop. They may not realise their behaviour is unreasonable or the effect it is having on you, so they need to be given the opportunity to change. You could ask your supervisor, health and safety representative or union representative to be with you when you approach the person.
Sometimes it can be hard to see a situation clearly. A health and safety officer, human resources officer or union representative can provide helpful advice on your unique situation.
Refer to workplace policies and procedures
These should outline how your workplace deals with workplace bullying and harassment, and what strategies they have in place to prevent it.
You may report bullying or harassment to your supervisor or manager, your health and safety officer or your union representative. If you work in an organisation governed by the Fair Work Act, you may also apply to the Fair Work Commission for an order to stop the bullying. Courts can impose significant penalties on parties who don’t comply with such an order.
Keep a factual record of events that includes what happened, dates and times, who was involved, names of witnesses and, where possible, copies of any documents.
When to seek legal advice
Depending on your situation it may be appropriate to seek legal advice from a lawyer with expertise in workers' compensation.
- If you've suffered psychological or physical harm as a result of workplace harassment and bullying, you should lodge a WorkCover claim as soon as possible. WorkCover is a workers compensation scheme that is funded through the premiums paid by employers and covers a broad range of injuries, both physical and psychological.
- If your WorkCover claim is accepted, then you may be entitled to receive weekly payments for your time off work, payment of your medical and like expenses, and in limited cases, a lump sum compensation for permanent impairment.
- If you haven't suffered psychological or physical harm as a result of workplace harassment or bullying, there are still things you can do. Our specialist employment lawyers can provide you with advice on a wide range of challenges at work, including workplace harassment, discrimination, bullying and adverse action.
Speak to us today
At Slater and Gordon, our experienced team of Workers' Compensation lawyers have a proud record over many years of achieving the best possible compensation outcomes on behalf of workers and their families.
If your WorkCover claim has been rejected or you have been off work for an extended period as a result of a psychological injury caused by bullying or harassment, please call us or submit an online enquiry. We will arrange a confidential meeting for you with our lawyers to discuss your situation in more detail.
Our priority at Slater and Gordon is to ensure you:
Feel supported through the workers' compensation process
Understand your rights and entitlements
Get assistance with disputes which may arise with your WorkCover insurer
Maximise your compensation
Receive clear and accurate advice about your prospects of success.
Meeting with a lawyer shouldn't be an overwhelming experience, to help you you can read more about what to expect when meeting your lawyer for the first time.
You should contact us if:
You have been subjected to bullying or harassment at work
You have suffered a psychological injury as a result of bullying or harassment at work
Your employer is pressuring you to return to work
Your employer's insurer won't pay for a particular expense
You've never received advice about a workplace injury caused by bullying or harassment
You just want to know where you stand within the law.