Storeperson subjected to bullying by his manager
WorkSafe v Matthew John Sallama (2019)
Matthew Sallama was the manager for a wholesale nuts company (company). A storeperson under the manager’s supervision worked in one of the company’s storage and packing sheds. The manager swore at the storeperson, used degrading and belittling language towards him, and threatened him, including threatening to burn his wages, dismiss him and not pay for his immigration visa.
The Sunshine Magistrate’s Court determined that the manager had engaged in bullying conduct directed at the storeperson.
The Magistrate’s Court found that at the relevant time, the manager was an officer of the company and was therefore liable for contraventions made by the company that were attributable to the manager’s own failure to take reasonable care under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004. The Court found that the company’s failure to take reasonable care was attributable to the manager, as his conduct did not comply with the extensive definition of bullying included in the company’s employee handbook.
The Court found the manager’s conduct exposed the storeperson to health and safety risks, which were present in the form of distress, depression, fearfulness and tearfulness.
The Court ordered the manager to pay a fine of $7,500 and costs of $2,000.
This decision is an example of why companies need to direct their attention to non-physical risks to safety in the workplace. Additionally, companies need to do more than just have policies in place to reduce these risks to health and safety.
It is also a reminder that officers can also be personally liable for their conduct in the workplace.
Please note: Case law is reported as correct and current at time of publishing. Be aware that cases in lower courts may be appealed and decisions subsequently overturned.
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