Allianz must pay $1.4m for its manager’s violent behaviour

By Portner Press on August 2nd, 2019
  1. Bullying, Harassment & Discrimination
  2. Bullying in the Workplace

While there is still contention about whether it is wrong to smack children, one would assume that it is fairly cut and dried that no boss should ever smack their workers.

Not according to one manager at Allianz however.

When former army commander Mr Smith was appointed as a new state manager by the company in 2003, he thought he could bring his army management style into the organisation.

And that he did.

Mr Smith was aggressive at the outset. As soon as he started working at Allianz, he called a boardroom meeting to tell all the account executives he had been “brought in to kick (them) in the head”.

Responsible for about 100 workers, Mr Smith told the account managers they had failed, dragging each of them into Human Resources before having the managers walked out.

From thereon in the abuse to his staff continued.

In Ward v Allianz Australia Services Pty Ltd (2019) the District Court of New South Wales ordered that Allianz pay one abused worker nearly $1.4 million in damages for psychological injuries he had suffered resulting from Mr Smith’s “tough” management style.

Mr Smith had yelled at the worker on several occasions, telling him he was hopeless at his job and that all the brokers thought the same.

On one occasion Mr Smith came up behind him when he was seated at his cubicle and slapped him across the back of his head without warning. The worker was hit so hard that his head nearly hit the keyboard.

But Mr Smith’s favourite form of physical abuse was to shoulder charge, which he did to the worker on a number of occasions when he walked past him.

Allianz nor any of its employees disputed whether this happened, however Allianz argued that it was not liable for the physical aspects of Mr Smith’s treatment, because the company had not authorised it and it was not connected to these acts.

NSW District Court Judge Justin Smith rejected this.

“Mr Smith’s conduct cannot properly be divided in this way: he embarked on one course of conduct aimed at achieving what he saw as his single goal, the improvement of the business,” he said.

“That course of conduct included physical abuse that was, on any view, improper.

“However, it was intimately connected with Mr Smith’s task because it was done in the apparent execution of the authority which Allianz had given him as state manager.”

Judge Smith did however find that Allianz had a system in place to deal with the manager’s bullying and put an end to his abusive conduct by removing him as state manager and giving him another role.

Never be brutal about performance management

Know the rules and stay out of court.

In chapter P1 Performance Management in the Health & Safety Handbook we show you how to manage your workers’ performance legally and effectively.

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