Workplace bullying and workplace harassment
At Maurice Blackburn our expert employment lawyers can help you quickly and discretely put a stop to bullying and protect your rights as an employee. If you are being bullied at work or have witnessed workplace bullying, we can help you.
Maurice Blackburn’s employment law division, headed by high-profile legal expert Josh Bornstein, is recognised nationally as Australia’s leading employment law practice. Our employment attorneys are able to negotiate directly and discreetly on behalf of employees, both in employer meetings and before the Fair Work Commission.
Fighting against bullying in the workplace
- Is your employment covered by the Federal anti-bullying laws?
- Are you experiencing repeated and unreasonable behaviour in connection with your work?
- Is the behaviour creating a risk to your physical or mental health or safety?
- Is the behaviour likely to continue unless action is taken to stop the behaviour?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions then you should consider seeking legal advice as soon as possible. We have a highly successful record in employment and bullying litigation and we can help you.
Contact us today to find out what the national anti-bullying laws mean for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is bullying?
A worker is bullied at work if an individual (or a group of individuals) repeatedly behaves unreasonably towards a worker (or a group of workers), and that behaviour creates a risk to health and safety. It is irrelevant whether the individual, or individuals, who are bullying intend to bully the victim.
What is the national anti-bullying legislation?
In recent years Maurice Blackburn has campaigned for the introduction of a national anti-bullying law. We are delighted that new federal anti-bullying laws came into effect on 1 January 2014. These laws are designed to stop workplace bullying promptly. However, the laws do not entitle bullying victims to monetary compensation or reinstatement.
What constitutes unreasonable behaviour?
Unreasonable behaviour includes:
- constant unjustified criticism or complaints
- constant threats to sack or demote
- excluding someone from workplace activities
- inconsistent and arbitrary enforcement of rules
- setting unreasonable timelines
- deliberately changing work arrangements in order to inconvenience someone
- setting tasks that are unreasonable
- excessive scrutiny of work performance
- withholding information or tools required to perform work
- taking credit for another employee's work and failing to acknowledge that employee
- verbal abuse
- physical assault.
What isn’t bullying?
It is important to note that bullying involves repeated unreasonable behaviour. A single incident is insufficient.
There are a range of behaviours that could amount to bullying. However, reasonable management action carried out in a reasonable manner does not constitute bullying. A performance assessment that you disagree with will not constitute bullying provided that it is conducted in a reasonable manner.
When does bullying turn criminal?
Behaviours involving unwanted physical contact or damage to property may also constitute criminal offences. If you experience any such behaviour, you should consider reporting the matter to the police.
What should I do if I am being bullied at work?
In addition to seeking legal advice, there are a number of simple things that you can also do which may assist:
- Keep a diary. Take notes of all the workplace bullying and harassment that happens to you, including when it happens and who the perpetrator is.
- Be informed. Make sure you have a copy of your contract of employment, enterprise agreement and workplace policies and procedures that deal with occupational health and safety and harassment.
- If you are a union member, contact your union. Many unions are experienced in dealing with workplace bullying and harassment. If the workplace bullying and harassment is affecting a number of employees there are advantages to addressing it collectively.
- Address the situation early. Employees who are subject to workplace bullying and harassment often put the issue to one side and wait before it gets really bad before addressing it. By this time the employee may have already suffered a work related stress injury; if this is the case, they may not be able to continue working.
- Make a complaint. Employees who make a complaint or inquiry in relation to their employment are protected from adverse action under the Fair Work Act 2009. Ideally, you should get advice prior to making a complaint. It is better if the complaint is in writing because this will be easier to use as evidence, should the need arise. When writing a complaint be concise and stick to the key points. You should also check any policies that your employer has relating to complaints, grievances, bullying or equal opportunity. These policies may detail the form and process for making a complaint.
- Take care of your health. Your mental and physical health is very important. If workplace discrimination, bullying or harassment is affecting you, make sure you see your doctor about it.
- Seek advice. Working out which legal or practical decisions to make can be difficult with workplace discrimination cases. We can provide support and advice on a range of legal and personal matters.
What are my workplace bullying rights?
Your rights in relation to workplace bullying can vary according to a number of factors including the nature of the workplace bullying and the reason or reasons for the workplace bullying.
The Federal Government introduced new laws specifically designed to combat workplace bullying. The laws commenced operation on 1 January 2014. Click here for more information on your rights with respect to these new laws.
As well as the 2014 anti-bullying laws, workplace bullying may also be covered by discrimination law, general protections under the Fair Work Act 2009, unfair dismissal law, employment contract law and enterprise agreements in the workplace, and occupational health and safety law.
Josh BornsteinNational Head of Employment Law, Melbourne
"When the forces of darkness are on your back, you want Josh at your side," Julian Burnside QC
Experts in Employment law
Our team has an outstanding record of achieving terrific outcomes for employees in both the private and public sector. We assist our clients with a combination of strategy, tenacity and compassion.
Call us on 1800 810 812 to book an initial consultation. Your first consultation costs $690 (incl GST).
At your one hour consult our lawyers will provide advice on your situation, the best action to take, and next steps. This consult is charged at a fixed fee.
Most of our cases are resolved out of court, and discretion is assured.