In brief – Employers should ensure that their
anti-bullying policies are robust
The Fair Work Commission (FWC) has handed down the first formal
ruling under the workplace bullying laws that were introduced by
amendment to the Fair Work Act 2009 (FW Act) on 1 January 2014.
Real estate business employees successfully seek stop
In the FWC decision in CF and NW And Company A and ED  FWC 5272,
released on 5 August 2015, two employees of a small real estate
business ("the applicant workers") successfully sought
stop bullying orders against their employer and their colleague,
who was employed in the role of property manager.
The FWC made a number of orders against the employer and the
property manager after finding that the applicant workers had been
bullied and harassed.
The applicant workers alleged that the property manager's
conduct against them in the workplace included:
swearing, yelling and use of otherwise inappropriate
daily interfering with and undermining of the applicants'
physical intimidation and "slamming" of objects on
the applicants' desks
attempts to incite the applicants to victimise other staff
threats of violence
The FWC found that there was no contest that the applicant
workers reasonably believed they had been bullied at work. Holding
a reasonable belief is a necessary requirement before an
application for a stop bullying order can be made.
Employees attempt to resolve complaints but to no
Prior to the applicant workers lodging their applications with
the FWC, the applicant workers had raised their concerns with their
employer. An informal investigation and workplace mediation ensued,
but none of these mechanisms resolved the applicant workers'
Subsequent to this, the property manager resigned from her
employment with the employer and commenced employment with one of
the employer's related companies.
The employer argued that because the property manager had been
moved to another location, the applicant workers were now working
in a safe working environment. But in reality, there was
interaction between the two businesses and prior to the FWC
hearing, the property manager had also been seconded back to the
applicant workers' employer.
the worker is at work in a constitutionally covered
an individual or group of individuals repeatedly
behaves unreasonably towards the worker, or group of
workers of which the worker is a member, and
that behaviour creates a risk to health and
The employer conceded that a finding that bullying conduct had
taken place in the workplace could be made. The employer also
acknowledged that such conduct could have created a risk to health
and safety. This led Commissioner Hampton to conclude that the
applicant workers had been bullied at work within the meaning of
section 789FD of the FW Act.
Fair Work Commission issues orders to both
The FWC made the following orders:
that the applicant workers and the property manager do not
approach each other and that they do not attend the others'
that the employer establish and implement appropriate
anti-bullying policies, procedures and training, including
confirmation of the appropriate future conduct and behaviour.
Employers should ensure compliance with anti-bullying
The case serves as a reminder to employers of the formal orders
that can be made by the FWC against an employer where a worker has
While in this case the employer did not suffer any reputational
damage because the parties were "de-identified",
de-identification is not an automatic right and is unlikely to be
granted in all stop bullying cases. Further, the resources and
legal cost associated with the claims should be incentive enough
for employers to review their anti-bullying systems to ensure that
they are robust.
An employee that refused a reasonable offer of settlement was ordered by the FWC to pay his ex-employer's legal costs.
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