How do you beat a bullying rap when a matter is taken to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) by an employee?
My first response is, don’t let it happen in the first place. However, for a variety of reasons, that can be easier said than done.
You can mount a successful case against an anti-bullying order as occurred during a recent case that went before the FWC.
In March 2018, employee, Alem Mekuria, made an applicationfor an anti-bullying order against her employer, Mecca Cosmetica. Alem alleged that she was subject behaviours including hurtful comments, gossip, ridiculing,passive aggressive behaviour, and discrimination because of her cultural background and single parental status.
While Alem was seeking an order to stop bullying, MeccaCosmetics sought a dismissal of the application. The employer contended that their actions had eliminated the risk of future bullying. Ultimately, theemployer’s application was successful.
The actions leading to success
An important fact to understand is that the FWC cannot make an order where there is no risk of the continuation of bullying behaviour to an employee. The Commission also had significant involvement in this case through multiple conferences before it came to the hearing.
To stop the continuation of the bullying behaviours, Mecca Cosmetica took the following actions.
- When Alem made an initial complaint in September2017, Mecca Cosmetics completed an internal investigation. None of the allegations were substantiated.
- Two months later, Alem lodged a second complaint.They bought in an external investigator with a majority of the allegations unsubstantiated.
- Despite the investigation outcomes, Mecca Cosmetics acted to prevent continuation of the risk. The two main alleged perpetrators were permanently relocated to a different work team and location from Alem. Their break times were also modified to ensure they didn’t clash with Alem’s. Both were also advised to have no contact with Alem inside or outside the workplace.
- Behavioural commitment documents were developed with input from involved parties outlining expected respectful behaviours.
- All of Mecca Cosmetica’s employees were required to attend bullying and harassment behavioural training.
Having implemented these actions, the FWC agreed with Mecca Cosmetics and dismissed the application for an anti-bullying order.
So yes you can successfully defend an anti-bullying order application, but you have to take action to stop the alleged bullying and eliminate the risk of future bullying behaviour.
It does require work and resources, but the earlier you act, the less it will cost your company in the longer term.
Are you curious to learn more about how you can prevent and stop workplace bullying?
Contact us now to start the conversation