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Employee alleging bullying tries to return to former work area

An employee hired by Toll Transport Pty Ltd (Toll) as a forklift driver alleged that from January to April 2018, he was inappropriately grabbed, shoved, and patted on the back by his Team Leader. He further claimed that the Team Leader’s behaviour was an attempt to exert power and control over him in the workplace.

In response to the allegations (which were firmly denied by the Team Leader), Toll moved the applicant into a section of the workplace that was separate from the applicant’s usual place of work, and away from the Team Leader.

Following the transfer, the employee made a stop-bullying application to the Fair Work Commission seeking an order to prevent future bullying by the Team Leader, and relocation back to his former work area. He also contended that he had been denied employment opportunities as a result of being moved to a new area of the workplace.

In dismissing the Application, the Commission found that:

  1. the applicant failed to substantiate allegations of bullying against his Team Leader;
  2. Toll acted reasonably in moving the applicant to a different team, as doing so avoided any interaction between him and the Team Leader; and
  3. the applicant did not suffer any loss of pay or entitlements as a result of the transfer.

Key Learnings

Employers are able to take reasonable action to protect employees in the event of bullying complaints, including (within reason) changing locations of work and reporting lines. This can be an effective way to avoid any further action being taken if an application is made in the stop-bullying jurisdiction.

Macpherson Kelley has extensive experience dealing with stop-bullying applications, as well as assisting employers in managing employee complaints. For assistance, please contact our Workplace Relations team.

This article was written by Annabelle Uebergang, Lawyer – Workplace Relations.