Amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) have created a new harassment / bullying jurisdiction.
Members are reminded that since the 1st January 2014 individual employees are able to apply to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) for an order to stop harassment / bullying.
Workplace bullying and/or harassment are issues for all Employers that may occur in any workplace.
As an Employer, you are required to provide an environment that is safe for the employees and without risk to their health.
Importantly, the courts are adopting a strict enforcement regime when dealing with harassment / bullying in the workplace as evident in the damages awarded in the following case.
A recent case which involved an employee who took her complaint to the Federal court resulted in her employer ordered to pay $130,000 in damages following her being subjected to sexual harassment by a fellow employee.
The employee initially took her complaints about a fellow worker to her employer. When the matter was not resolved to the employee’s satisfaction, she resigned and commenced proceedings against her employer.
The employee was awarded $18,000 in general damages for pain and suffering and no damages for economic loss. The employee appealed the decision and on appeal, the Full Federal Court increased the employee’s award for general damages to $100,000 and included an additional $30,000 for economic loss on the basis that the employee’s resignation was a consequence of her sexual harassment.
An important consequence of this decision was that the employer was also ordered to pay the employee’s cost of the proceedings on the basis that she had made a settlement offer that was more favourable to the employer than the final result.
Decisions such as this are likely to encourage employees who feel they have been harassed to commence proceedings if their complaints are not swiftly handled by their employer.
HOW TO ADDRESS COMPLAINTS
To ensure that Members are aware of their obligations as an Employer, the ATA has available a “Preventing and Managing Workplace Bullying and Harassment Guide” available on its website.
CLICK HERE to access this Guide.
The ATA’s Industrial Relations Manager, Wayne Lee, is contactable on (03) 9372 1688 or email firstname.lastname@example.org should Members require further assistance.
Richardson v Oracle Corporation Australia Pty Ltd  FCAFC 82
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