What are your options when dealing with workplace bullying issues?

Get a lawyer who has helped numerous people to resolve complex and difficult bullying issues across Queensland.

What are your options when dealing with workplace bullying issues?

Get a lawyer who has helped numerous people to resolve complex and difficult bullying issues across Queensland.

How this firm can protect your interests

How this firm can protect your interests

Andrew Anderson, Legal Director, is an award-winning lawyer with a passion for employment law. He is independently recommended as being among the leading corporate crime, white-collar crime and regulatory investigations lawyers in Australia (Doyles Guide, 2020).
Having successfully represented litigants in the High Court of Australia, Queensland Court of Appeal, Royal Commissions, Fair Work Commission and multiple other courts dealing with trials and other hearings, Andrew Anderson understands how to succeed in complex and difficult cases.
Andrew Anderson has worked as a Principal Crown Prosecutor in Queensland and barrister in private practice at 8 Petrie Terrace Chambers in Brisbane. His depth of courtroom advocacy experience ranges from simple cases right through to complex trials and appeals.
Anderson Legal is a law firm that is dedicated to the best ideals of the legal profession. Seeking to exceed client expectations and fighting for justice is an everyday pursuit.

Learn more about workplace bullying

1. Specific workplace bullying issues

Workplace bullying constitutes misconduct in the work that can result in disciplinary action, including dismissal. Workers at all levels can be the subject of workplace bullying. Just as bullying can cause harm, false bullying allegations can unfairly ruin reputations and livelihoods. For anybody facing a bullying issue in their workplace, it is critical to get informed about your rights, responsibilities and legal options.

Experiencing Workplace Bullying? Your Options.

Under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), when a worker is bullied is essentially determined by three key issues. First, the behaviour must be unreasonable. Second, it must be repeated. Third, it must create a risk to health and safety. If you believe you may be experiencing workplace bullying, getting informed about your options may be critical to protecting yourself, your reputation and your livelihood.

False Workplace Bullying Issues

Facing false workplace bullying allegations, which may be a result of misunderstandings at one end and vexatious lies at the other, cause significant stress to those on the receiving end of them. It is important to protect your interests and reputation.

If you are facing false workplace bullying allegations, you may find it can feel like an isolating and daunting experience. Each case is different. While some false complaints are motivated by a desire to deflect attention from poor performance, others can be more complex and nuanced. Obtaining early and authoritative advice about your rights, responsibilities and options may be critical to you successfully defending your reputation and livelihood.

Local Government Workplace Bullying

If you are a public sector employee working in local government, you are protected from workplace bullying under the anti-bullying laws in the Industrial Relations Act 2016 (Qld), which outlines when an employee is bullied.

The meaning of workplace bullying in the Industrial Relations Act 2016 (Qld) is essentially the same as the definition in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). While the definition excludes reasonable management action, it does target instances of repeated unreasonable behaviour that creates a risk to health and safety. An employee of a local government can take a number of steps to resolve workplace bullying under the anti-bullying laws in operation in Queensland.

Workplace Bullying – Public Servants

While public servants working for the Queensland government may take reasonable management action in relation to workplace issues, workers are protected from bullying by anti-bullying laws under the Industrial Relations Act 2016 (Qld).

Queensland public services who face workplace bullying issues ought to get informed about their rights, responsibilities and options, as there are many ways such issues may be handled. It is critical that anybody facing bullying in their workplace, or accusations relating to workplace bullying, understands the practical and actionable steps that can be taken to minimise risks to their wellbeing, reputations and livelihoods.

Workplace Bullying in Small Businesses

Workplace bullying in small businesses creates unique challenges for business owners and employees. If you are experiencing bullying in a small business, or have been accused of such conduct, getting informed about your options is important.

Many people who are faced with a workplace bullying issue understandably get concerned about what options they may have to deal with the situation. The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) sets out that while reasonable management action is permitted, repeated unreasonable behaviour that creates a risk to health and safety may constitute workplace bullying. People have a range of rights, responsibilities and options when it comes to issues of this kind.

2. Common issues with workplace bullying

Below are a number of common issues that people confront when dealing with workplace bullying issues. While the information about each issue has been created to help people seeking to learn more about common issues relating to workplace bullying, it cannot – and is not meant to – substitute legal consultation. To get tailored advice about an issue that may be raised in a specific case, contact Anderson Legal.

Confidentiality & Workplace Investigations

There is a duty on employers to preserve confidentiality during workplace investigations, due to the risks associated with real or perceived reputational damage. Failure to preserve confidentiality can result in successful claims against employers.

When faced with allegations and the need for a workplace investigation, employers have a duty of care with respect to maintaining confidentiality. Successful workers’ compensation claims and defamation claims may follow breaches of confidentiality obligations where reputational harm follows. For this reason, workplace investigations often involve requirements imposed on employees to strictly preserve confidentiality as part of the investigative process. 

Responding to Workplace Investigations

Many people who face bullying complaints in the workplace are managers in one form or another. However described, executives, managers, or small business owners all manage the conduct and performance of other workers as part of their work. It is by no means uncommon for performance management issues to lead to allegations of workplace bullying. Often the question is whether what occurred was bullying or reasonable management action?

Stop Bullying Orders in the Fair Work Commission

To seek a ‘stop bullying order’ in the Fair Work Commission, it is necessary to file an application seeking an anti-bullying order. The issue may be resolved through mediation, conferences or hearings, depending on the individual circumstances.

For anybody experiencing workplace bullying, the anti-bullying remedies available through the Fair Work Commission ought to be considered. Generally, such a process is commenced where it has not been possible to resolve the issue within the workplace. The Fair Work Commission may also seek to resolve applications by negotiation, however it also has the power to conduct contested hearings and make rulings and issue stop-bullying orders.

Whistleblowers & Public Interest Disclosures

Whistleblower complaints and public interest disclosures (PIDs) can create complex issues for employers, employees and other individuals due to specific laws designed to create specific safeguards for whistleblowers.

A number of laws in Australia contain whistleblower protections, such as those contained in the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 (Qld) and the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth). While affording limited protections for whistleblowers in the private sector, there are significant public interest disclosure protections for individuals who raise allegations of misconduct or wrongdoing. Significant consequences attend adverse action or reprisal action against whistleblowers.

Employer Rights & Responsibilities

Employers owe a duty of care to their employees, which extends to protecting them from bullying. In discharging its responsibilities relating to employee welfare, employers also have certain rights in dealing with workplace bullying.

Employers are responsible for taking reasonable steps to protect their employees from risks to health and safety, which includes workplace bullying. Workplace contracts may explicitly or implicitly require employees to cooperate with investigations into alleged workplace bullying. The rights and responsibilities employers have with respect to workplace bullying exist to ensure workers are protected from bullying at work.

3. Possible consequences of workplace bullying

For anybody facing workplace bullying allegations, there can be a number of consequences that can result. For many people, the potentially far-reaching effects of a workplace bullying complaint can come as a shock, which underscores why early advice from an experienced lawyer can be crucial to protecting your rights and advancing your interests.

Responding to a Written Warning Letter at Work

If you receive an unfair written warning, there are a number of steps you can take to overturn its effect. Written warnings may be relied upon by employers for subsequent disciplinary actions to justify greater actions, such as dismissal.

While some written warnings at work state justified concerns about an employee’s capacity or conduct, others may be unfair, vague or misapprehends or overlooks some important facts. Failing to take appropriate action to respond to an unfair written warning can make it more difficult to later challenge its validity, making it harder to respond to any later disciplinary action. For this reason, it is important to take action following a written warning at work.

Responding to a Show Cause Letter at Work

A show cause letter is often sent during a disciplinary process to notify an employee of possibility of action being taken against them, such as the termination of their employment, and give them an opportunity to provide a response.

If you need to respond to a show cause letter at work, it is necessary to understand the importance of your response to what may follow. Failing to raise certain issues, or addressing the wrong issues, may not only see you face a disciplinary decision that is harsh, unjust or unreasonable, you may also jeopardise your ability to take action over a wrongful decision. Getting advice when responding to a show cause letter can be critical to the outcome.

Disciplinary Action – Dismissal

Employers may choose to dismiss an employee for a conduct or capacity issue, which may follow a workplace investigation. The termination of employment may be without notice in cases of serious misconduct, such as for theft.

If you are dismissed from work and seek to know your options, there may be some steps you can take if you believe you were treated unlawfully or unfairly. Employees who are dismissed following a workplace investigation may seek to challenge the fairness of the investigation, or the reasoning in an investigation report, which may be the basis for an employer’s decision to dismiss. Flawed investigations can lead to successful unfair dismissal claims.

Bullying, Discrimination & Harassment Claims

If you are subject to bullying, discrimination or harassment, there are a number of possible claims that may be available to litigate, including through human rights and anti-discrimination commissions as well as the Fair Work Commission.

Increasingly, instead of seeking to deal with workplace bullying, discrimination and harassment claims simply through the Fair Work Commission, individuals are seeing the benefits of pursuing claims through human rights and anti-discrimination commissions across Australia. Additionally, people who suffer psychological or psychiatric injuries may also seek to pursue workers’ compensation claims among other types of claims that may be available.

General Protections Claims (Adverse Action)

In Australia, there are certain protections (called general protections) employees have that are designed to prevent an employer from taking adverse action over – such as disciplining or dismissing a worker because they exercise a workplace right.

A general protections claim allows a worker to bring a claim against their employer for taking actions that cause detriment (adverse action) because they exercise a workplace right or for some other protected reason. It is possible for employees to apply for injunctions to stop the decisions or actions taking effect, as well as to pursue compensation and other remedies for the resulting harm or damage caused by the adverse action.

Unfair Dismissal Claims

Following an employer deciding to dismiss an employee, it is often open for that employee to dispute the dismissal by filing an unfair dismissal claim in the Fair Work Commission. Strict time limits apply to unfair dismissal claims.

Successful unfair dismissal claims may result in reinstatement and compensation being ordered by the Fair Work Commission. There are strict deadlines that apply to unfair dismissal claims so it is important that anybody considering lodging an unfair dismissal claim gets the advice and guidance needed to successfully navigate the dispute. Anderson Legal provides expert advice and guidance with respect to unfair dismissal claims.

Do you need personalised legal advice or representation about a workplace bullying issue?

If you are facing a workplace bullying issue or related matter, obtaining early and authoritative advice may be essential to protecting your rights and legal interests. Andrew Anderson has experience in assisting individuals to deal with issues arising with respect to workplace bullying allegations and complaints.

If you need to contact Anderson Legal, you can call the firm on (07) 3505 7070. Alternatively, you can complete our form and we will try to contact you.

Get informed about issues affecting you. View here.

This firm helps clients across Queensland. Learn more.