On 19 August 2016, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) handed down a decision dismissing an order to stop bullying—only the seventh of its kind concerning the FWC's bullying jurisdiction, which came into effect on 1 January 2014. Through the firm's Pro Bono Program, Sparke Helmore Lawyers acted for the employer (a charitable organisation).
The Applicant, an employee of the charity, sought orders from the FWC against her manager to stop bullying under s 789FC of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). The alleged bullying conduct included overburdening her workload, requesting she perform "unreasonable" work tasks, making accusations about her work ethic and belittling her in front of other team members, amongst other allegations. Despite steps taken following two mediation sessions, the Applicant filed a general protections claim on 12 January 2016 and made a bullying complaint to SafeWork NSW.
In exercising its jurisdiction, the FWC considered the Applicant's evidence that her manager's actions were not reasonable management action carried out in a reasonable manner. The employer gave evidence that the actions taken did not constitute bullying and that, where possible, it had actioned the Applicant's requests to address her concerns and also established measures to rebuild the work relationship between the two parties.
The Commission found that the evidence did not support allegations of unreasonable behaviour by the manager and that the employer had executed reasonable management action and also carried out fair and transparent investigations into her allegations.
The decision handed down in this case illustrates that reasonable management action will defeat a claim of alleged bullying. "Our client was grateful for the services Sparke Helmore provided in advising on and defending the bullying claim. Providing legal assistance to the charity through our Pro Bono Program means that it can use its available resources to further its purpose, positively," said Workplace Partner, Roland Hassall.