A small real estate agency has been ordered to keep a property manager away from two other employees, after the Fair Work Commission ruled the manager bullied the two staff members.
The agency has also been ordered to develop and implement anti-bullying policies, procedures and training, in one of the commission’s few findings of bullying since it was given oversight of the area almost two years ago.
Fair Work Commissioner Peter Hampton made the orders on Wednesday, choosing to keep the identities of the company and employees under wraps in part to obtain a concession from the business that bullying occurred and in part to ensure the employees have access to a safe working environment in the future.
The two workers told the commission the manager threatened them with violence and belittled them, as well as yelling and swearing at them.
The manager was also accused of interfering and undermining the employees’ work on a daily basis and using physical intimidation, including “slamming” objects on the employees’ desks.
The employees, who took leave from their work because of the behaviour, said they raised the issues with their employer and the allegations were the subject of an informal investigation and attempts at mediation.
The manager subsequently resigned at the company but then took up a position with a related company. The commission heard there was “potential for interaction” between the two businesses and their employees and the manager had in fact been “seconded” back to the original workplace on a temporary basis.
The employer conceded to the commission that a finding could be made that bullying had occurred, that “unreasonable behaviour” towards the employees occurred and such behaviour risked the health and safety of the employees.
The employees and manager accepted the concession and Commissioner Hampton made several orders to prevent further bullying, including keep the manager and employees working in separate offices.
The business was also ordered to address the culture in its offices that led to the conduct occurring.
Charles Power, workplace relations partner at Holding Redlich, told SmartCompany the orders made by Commissioner Hampton are comprehensive and other employers should take note.
“This is a good model for all employers to consider as a way of dealing with workplace bullying complaints that are substantiated,” Power says.
“In that way, the commission has been very helpful by telling Australian managers how this problem can be fixed.”
Power says in this case, the real estate agency had in some respects “a blank canvas” when it came to policies to cover workplace bullying and a large number of other employers would be in a similar position.
Employers “shouldn’t throw up their hands” if they receive a bullying complaint, Power says, and having policies and procedures in place is important.
“Having positive measures in place in relation to specific cases as well as broader preventative measures can be a sort of insurance against being dragged into the Fair Work Commission,” he says.
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