A site manager at building company Metricon has lost his bullying claim before the Fair Work Commission, with the body ruling there was not enough evidence to support his claims.
The worker, referred to in Fair Work documents as Mr Hammon, made a wide array of claims against Metricon and two of his managers.
Hammon claimed increases in his pay were unfairly delayed, he was not given the opportunity to transfer to an area with greater career opportunities and was the subject of occupational health and safety breach allegations that came about because he was unfairly targeted by his managers.
It was also alleged that Metricon failed to investigate several of his complaints about bullying and unfair treatment and the company created a “highly competitive and stressful environment” in which employees’ performances were constantly monitored and shared with others.
The worker, who has been employed by the company since 2009 but is currently on leave, also said he was given an “unreasonable workload” by his managers.
He also said that once it reached a point he was no longer able to continue reporting to the two managers that he alleged bullied him, the alternative positions he was offered involved either considerable extra travel or considerably lower pay.
Fair Work Commissioner Julius Roe found several “unreasonable” incidents did occur, including Hammon being called a “lackey” while training as a site manager.
In another incident, one of the managers was found to have suggested in an email that Hammon’s pay should be delayed to show him how building contractors feel when they don’t get paid if he fails to complete paperwork.
There was also an incident at an end-of-year work function in which another employee allegedly threatened Hammon and a year later, the same employee challenged him to an arm wrestle.
But while Roe said Metricon did not carry out reasonable management action in relation to these particular incidents, he found the specific events “were not the major issues raised by Mr Hammon”.
Instead, he said the major issued complained about by Hammon did not constitute “unreasonable behaviour”.
Nevertheless, while Roe said he was not able to issue a stop-bullying order, he said there are some “shortcomings in Metricon’s practices”.
“I hope they will be addressed. I also recommend that Mr Hammon and Metricon meet to see to resolve outstanding issues,” he said.
In a statement provided to SmartCompany, Metricon chief executive Mario Biasin said the company is “pleased with the decision and that the Fair Work Commission recognised the clear distinction between reasonable performance management actions and bullying”.
Employment lawyer Peter Vitale previously told SmartCompany in most cases, bullying claims reflect some aspects of the particular workplace.
“More often than not when allegations of bullying are raised there will be some element of that in the workplace,” Vitale says.
“The lesson for employers is really to keep your ear to the ground and try and work out whether there are any issues bubbling among staff that are causing any distress or personality conflict and step on it as quickly as possible.”
*This article was updated at 4.30pm on August 20 to include a comment from Metricon.