In February this year, fines were handed down to three workers in Victoria, Australia, who physically and emotionally bullied a teenage co-worker who later committed suicide.
These fines were among the highest penalties ever issued to individuals under Victorian occupational health and safety laws.
Café employees were fined A$45,000, A$30,000 and A$10,000 for relentlessly insulting and criticising 18 year old waitress, Brodie Panlock. One of the employees, who managed the café, also taunted Panlock over a failed suicide attempt. The employees were witnessed pouring fish oil into Panlock's bag and then pouring it over her hair and clothes, reducing her to tears. The Melbourne magistrate said that the cafe had 'tacitly approved' of the 'persistent and vicious' bullying of Panlock and that 'the atmosphere in the cafe was poisonous'. The court regarded the cafe's behaviour as being in the worst category. It fined the company $220,000 and the company's director $30,000.
This issue has not been as publicised in New Zealand as it has been for our Trans Tasman counterparts. However, the New Zealand Department of Labour has addressed workplace bullying on its website including how to prevent bullying, what to do if it occurs and the effect of bullying. We recommend you have an anti-bullying and workplace violence policy in place and discipline employees in accordance with the policy.
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