Box Seat Newsflash: Bullying in the Workplace
Authority Case on Bullying
A recent article on Stuff has highlighted the importance of employers addressing complaints of bullying in their workplaces - “Kindergarten Teacher gets nearly $100,000 pay out in Bullying Case”.
In this case, the Authority found that this teacher was unjustifiably dismissed from her kindergarten and had been bullied by her manager, who had had a track record of bullying other workers.
Despite the kindergarten teacher raising a complaint about the bullying and the kindergarten undertaking guided meditation meetings, (which involved the entire kindergarten staff), the teacher’s manager gave no admission of bullying, remorse or apology to the kindergarten teacher. The teacher’s manager also made light of any previous corrective training that had been given to her.
The Kindergarten teacher was put on paid special leave during this process due to her reluctance to return to work under these circumstances.
The Authority found that the kindergarten had not sufficiently investigated its concerns regarding the kindergarten teacher’s return to work and that the kindergarten had improperly pressured this teacher to resign.
The advocate for the teacher said that this case could serve as a precedent in opening up the “floodgates” to larger pay outs for those bullied in the workplace.
The Importance of Addressing Workplace Bullying Complaints
This case underscores how important it is for employers to take bullying complaints seriously, to follow the right process, to genuinely investigate and to address the concerns of those employees raising complaints of bullying in the workplace.
WorkSafe NZ provides employers with good practice guidelines on how to prevent and respond to bullying at work. WorkSafe NZ’s latest edition, which was published in March 2017, can be found at www.worksafe.govt.nz.
These guidelines emphasise that workplace bullying is not only important from a best practice view of what employers need to do under these circumstances, but that bullying has been identified as health and safety risk, where employers need to minimise the likelihood of bullying in their workplaces, so far as is reasonably practicable.
Bullying complaints can be difficult for employers to work through. If you would like more information on how to deal with and address complaints of this nature, please contact our Employment Law Team - Caroline Silk, Phil McCarthy, Sean Maskill and Diana Koorts.