Bullying is a topic that has been increasingly at the forefront of employers’ minds, particularly since the introduction of bullying into the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) regime in January 2014. Learning Seat previously published an update on the subject.
Certainly, the destructive impact that bullying behaviour in the workplace can have on the victims and on the employer’s business is apparent. Individuals must be encouraged to “speak out” against bullies. The pressure is on for employers to ensure that they are not only making all efforts to eradicate bullying behaviour from their workplace, but that, if there is a bullying culture, that it is effectively dealt with if the employer is going to avoid court proceedings and potentially a court order.
Monash Medical Centre has been the subject of adverse publicity this week following the report made by one of its junior doctors, Dr Imogen Ibbett, about the bullying behaviour of Dr Helen Maroulis, one of its senior neurosurgeons, encouraging a number of nurses to also make complaints about the way they had been bullied and intimidated by Dr Maroulis. After criticisms of the way Monash Medical Centre originally handled the complaints, fresh investigations are now underway.
The importance of following a fair and comprehensive procedure in response to bullying complaints was highlighted for a second time in the past week by the Fair Work Commission in the case of James Willis v Marie Gibson; Capital Radiology Pty Ltd T/A Capital Radiology; Peita Carroll*. In this case, the Fair Work Commission declined to make any order against a radiology company following accusations of bullying against it by one of its employees, because the Commission found that the employer’s “careful attention to procedural fairness” made it unlikely that the bullying would continue. For more details see: www.fwc.gov.au/documents/decisionssigned/html/2015FWC3538.htm
Each of these cases highlight that, although the priority is always to prevent unlawful behaviour, it is critical for the employer to demonstrate clear and fair procedures and comprehensive and effective training in order to avoid adverse court findings and the significant reputational damage that inevitably goes hand-in-hand with this.
* FWC 3538