It's official! Following on from our previous
here), the amendments to the Fair Work Act designed to stamp
out workplace bullying have passed. They're set to commence on
1 January 2014, and not the original start date of 1 July
Hopefully the extra six months will give the Fair Work
Commission a little more time to figure out how exactly it plans to
deal with these new applications.
As a brief refresher, under the new laws workers who believe
they have been bullied at work can apply to the FWC, which must
then start to deal with the application within 14 days. How this
will be done is a matter for the FWC but conducting a conference or
hearing are given as possible examples.
If the FWC is satisfied that there is bullying, it can make any
order it considers appropriate to stop it other than the payment of
money. As set out in our previous bulletin, both employers and
individuals can face pretty hefty fines if they subsequently breach
these "stop bullying" orders.
But that's not all that's happening in the world of
bullying. Just last month, a law book co-operative at Monash
University, Legibook, was hit with a damages bill of almost
$600,000. The Supreme Court of Victoria found that Legibook failed
to take reasonable care of an employee subjected to years of
bullying from a manager, including an incident involving the
manager throwing a book at the employee's head.
Despite the employee raising complaints, Legibook failed to
properly investigate the matter or protect the employee from
further bullying. Although the employer talked about a workplace
policy, it was never rolled out. The Court was also critical of
Legibook for failing to monitor the conduct of employees following
the complaint and for not having a complaint handling process.
The Court concluded that the employee suffered severe
psychological injury as a result of the bullying and was not likely
to work again. The Court awarded a whopping $300,000 in general
damages for pain and suffering, and past and future economic loss
calculated to retirement age.
Is your workplace equipped to deal with a bullying
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Long experience representing many of Australia's leading employers has taught us that in employment litigation the identity of an employee's representative is a major factor in how employee litigation runs.
Australian employees receive certain entitlements (such as annual leave and superannuation) where contractors do not.
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