If you are being bullied or harassed in your workplace, you have legal rights and you can take action.
Helping you to decide precisely what action should be taken is where we can assist. Many companies will have internal procedures which can be followed to try and resolve this sort of problem. However this will not always be the best or most effective means of resolving the issue.
In many cases, the bullying/harrassment is severe to the point where you might be medically unfit to attend work (on account of stress), or it may be that those in power at the company are perpetuating or tolerating the harrassing conduct. In such cases, a stronger, legal approach might be appropriate.
So, what can you do if you think you are being bullied at work?
- Firstly, use any internal mechanisms available. Have a look at your company’s policies (maybe described as an ‘employee handbook’ or similar) and see if it has a policy for dealing with bullying. This might be described as a ‘grievance procedure’, or a bullying and harassment policy. The mechanism will probably set out a staged process something like this:
- Try dealing with the matter directly if you can, by speaking frankly to the person who is bullying you. Obviously this is not always possible, wise or appropriate.
- Where direct confrontation it is not appropriate, then the policy will likely suggest that you report the conduct to your manager. If the bully is your manager, then the policy should direct you to someone more senior who can hear your complaint.
- Once the complaint is made, your employer will likely undertake an investigation into the complaint. This will involve further conversations with you, a conversation with the bully, and perhaps also conversations with anyone who may have witnessed the conduct you complain of.
- Your employer will then make a finding. If they conclude that you have been bullied, then they will take steps to address that. This might include restructuring to limit your contact with the bully, it might include mediation, and it might include some sort of disciplinary action against the bully.
- Secondly, if internal mechanisms fail or if they are not available, you are entitled to bring an application to the Fair Work Commission, seeking an order that will operate to prevent the bullying conduct form occurring.
Bear in mind that if an employer has knowledge of the bullying conduct and has not taken reasonable steps to prevent the bullying/harassment from occurring, they may be vicariously liable for the actions of the bully. If these actions have caused you harm, then you may be able to claim that loss against the company.
We have assisted many employees in dealing with bullying and/or harassment in the workplace. If you think you are being harassed, please contact us to discuss, understand, and enforce your rights.