Bullying claims supports unfair dismissal remedy

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Bullying claims supports unfair dismissal remedy with the internal complaints procedure of little use to the Applicant

The FWC has accepted an employee’s argument that his resignation resulted from consistent bullying by co-workers, and a failure by Human Resource staff to address and deal with his claims properly. As a result, the jurisdictional objection to his application has been dismissed, and the matter will proceed to hearing.

The Applicant commenced employment as a labourer in the boning room of Teys Australia Beenleigh Pty Ltd (Teys) on 30 July 2017, until he resigned on 23 September 2019. He claimed to have been consistently bullied by his supervisor throughout his employment, as well as incidents involving a leading hand and a co-worker.

Some of the bullying behaviours he alleged from his supervisor included:

  • Continually finding fault with him and his work;

  • Following him through the workplace, including when he went to the toilet;

  • Timing how long he took away from his immediate workplace;

  • Telling him, he was not doing his job properly and working too slowly.

With regard to other alleged incidents, he claimed his leading hand had manhandled him from one machine to another, and that a co-worker had racially abused him calling out to him “you are black” and “I don’t want you to work here”.

The Applicant attempted to raise concerns with HR staff on several occasions but was either unable to make an appointment, or when he was able to raise his concerns, they failed to take satisfactory notes of his issues, or could not later locate the notes that had been taken.  Further, at no stage did HR or line management consider transferring him to another area away from the supervisor.

Consequently, the Applicant asserted that the inaction from Teys caused him to no longer feel safe at his workplace and severely affected his mental health so that he had no other option but to resign his employment.

Tey’s primary defence was that the Applicant had not followed their company complaints procedure, and therefore, they were not aware of his concerns and issues. They did concede that the site level practises in the situation fell short of their normal high standards.

Deputy President Asbury accepted the Applicant’s submissions and delivered a scathing review of management “… I am satisfied and find that the Applicant’s employment ended at the initiative of the employer … This was more than a case of an employee leaving an unpleasant work environment. The Applicant had limited English language skills which made reporting conduct he had been subjected to, difficult. The complaints procedure was of little use to the Applicant. The Applicant was suffering from depression at the time and there is evidence that this was caused to some extent by the manner in which he had been treated at work. The employer failed to deal reasonably with the complaint and the response of (staff) was manifestly inadequate in light of the seriousness of the complaint”.

The Applicant’s matter will now be listed to proceed to hearing.

Mr M v Teys Australia Beenleigh Pty Ltd [2020] FWC 2996

For queries about managing complaints or other employment questions, please contact Dean Cameron at Workforce Advisory Lawyers – We Know Employment Law on 0417 622 178 or via email to dean.cameron@workforceadvisory.com.au

Disclaimer: This information is provided as general advice on workplace relations and employment law. It does not constitute legal advice, and it is always advisable to seek further information regarding specific workplace issues. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.

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