The bullying provisions in the Fair Work Act 2009 were
introduced in 2013, and give the Fair Work Commission (FWC) the
power to deal with anti bullying applications in limited
Since the introduction of these provisions, various cases have
helped to clarify exactly how they are meant to operate in
practice. However, despite such attempts, there is still confusion
as to what does and does not constitute bullying in the workplace.
Helpfully, a recent bullying case, Gore  FWC 2559 (24 May
2016), provides further clarification on the issue of 'hurt
The relevant background details of that case are as follows:
The application was made by Mrs Gore, a casual receptionist,
employed by the Yura Tungi Aboriginal Medical Service in Halls
Creek, Western Australia. In the application, Mrs Gore sought an
order to stop bullying by three employees - Mr Evans, Mrs Evans and
Mrs Chadwick. A summary of the allegations made by Mrs Gore against
the three employees included:
One of the accused employees openly praised another employee in
the same role as Mrs Gore, in front of her
One of the accused employees corresponded with Ms Gore on
occasion using what Mrs Gore describes as an impolite tone
One of the accused employees gave Mrs Gore a "suspicious
One of the accused employees was quieter and more withdrawn
than usual in her dealings with Mrs Gore and acted in a hesitant
manner towards her
One of the accused employees requested that Mrs Gore take more
detailed phone messages, and did not make the same comment to the
One of the accused employees asked Mrs Gore whether she was
aware of a particular company policy after she did something
contrary to it
One of the accused employees initially ignored Mrs Gore after
she called out the accused employee's name.
Pretty petty, right? But such complaints aren't uncommon in
some workplaces – so what did the FWC decide and what were
the key take-homes from the decision? The FWC ruled that the
alleged conduct did not constitute bullying. In the ruling, it was
determined that an employee's perspective has to be balanced
against the conduct of others, including reasonable management
action carried out in a reasonable manner.
The FWC said that "Having a preference about how things
should be done...and suggestions not being agreed to by a
supervisor, is not bullying. The choice is a matter for the
supervisor. An employer gives a supervisor a role and
responsibilities. To deprive a supervisor of the ability to carry
out their role in a reasonable way... is not a breach of reasonable
"While Mrs Gore may be sincere in her beliefs and views,
the anti-bullying provisions of the FW Act, are to protect bullying
behaviour, not substantially a person's feelings."
The FWC explained that complimenting one employee in front of
another is not bullying; and that seeking a compliment or thank you
and not receiving one is not an act of bullying by the other
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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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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