Legal

Anti-bullying order revoked after worker declares colleague pumping iron on the balcony no longer a problem

Kirsten Robb /

Employee now free to pump iron on the balcony

The Fair Work Commission has revoked its only substantial bullying order of the year after the employee involved declared the conflict between her and her male colleague was now “negligible”.

In September the commission ordered an unnamed male employee to stop exercising on a balcony in front of his female colleague, following a bullying claim by the female worker.

Senior deputy president Drake ordered the man to refrain from exercising on the balcony of the workplace between 8.15am and 4.15pm and not to speak to his colleague in situations where no one else is in listening range.

Drake also ordered the man not to comment on his colleague’s attire or appearance; not to send emails to his colleague unless the content is work-related and another colleague is copied in; not to text or call his colleague on her personal phone unless there is an immediate work-related emergency; not to raise any issues relating to his colleague’s job performance unless he has notified others in the company first; and that the female employee not arrive for work before 8.15am.

Drake revoked all the orders on Tuesday after receiving an application from the female employee.

“Since our last meeting there has been a negligible amount of conflict between [the male employee] and myself, and I have felt comfortable approaching my supervisor… with any concerns that I have,” said the employee.

“The past year of intervention from Fair Work has been very positive and helpful and I am very grateful for the support that has been given to me by senior deputy president Drake,” she said.

“I think that the New Year is an appropriate time to lift the orders and that it is in the best interest of everyone involved to do so.”

Andrew Douglas, partner at M+K Lawyers, told SmartCompany the original orders showed the depth of the power the commission has to “get into an organisation and regulate its work”.

“It showed they could interfere utterly in management prerogatives,” says Douglas.

“Orders like, ‘John must not work within five metres of Jane’, could be made.”

Douglas says the case was a lesson to employers that they should resolve issues before they end up before the commission.”

“If you don’t resolve the issues, you end up with these orders that are impractical,” he says.

Douglas says the revoking of the orders was a “successful outcome” for the unnamed business at the centre of the case. He also says it shows good workplace communication can resolve issues and lead to the removal of orders, reminding employers any breach of orders can lead to significant penalties.

“Once you do get an order, don’t stop working. This [case] provides a window into what you can do. Building good business requires good communication and good businesses can continue to work on through difficult problems,” he says.

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Kirsten Robb

Kirsten Robb is a former journalist at SmartCompany. Previously, she worked at News Corp as a property reporter for Leader Newspapers and the Herald Sun, and holds a Masters of Journalism at Melbourne University.

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