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Bullying is harmful behaviour that is directed towards a person or group of people. It is repeated, unreasonable and unwelcome. Bullying can cause either physical or psychological harm. Bullying within the workplace creates a risk to the health and safety of your workers. While no specific mention is made of bullying in health and safety legislation, the same legislation imposes a general duty on you to protect the health, safety and welfare of your workers. Workplace bullying isn’t just confined to the physical workspace. Bullying can also occur online, particularly through email or social media, and at any time of the day or night. There are two types of bullying that can occur in the workplace - direct and indirect bullying. Direct bullying is behaviour that is overt and often involves direct steps or conduct to belittle or demean a person or a group of people. Examples include:
  • abusive, insulting or offensive language;
  • spreading misinformation or malicious rumours;
  • behaviour or language that frightens, humiliates, belittles or degrades, including criticism delivered with yelling or screaming;
  • displaying offensive material, e.g. pornography;
  • making inappropriate comments about a person’s appearance, lifestyle or family;
  • teasing or regularly making someone the brunt of pranks or practical jokes;
  • interfering with a person’s property or work equipment, e.g. hiding or defacing someone’s property; and
  • harmful or offensive initiation processes.
Indirect bullying is behaviour that often involves treatment that excludes or removes benefits from a person or group of people, including:
  • deliberately or maliciously overloading a person with work or not providing enough work;
  • unreasonably setting timelines that are difficult to achieve or constantly changing deadlines;
  • setting tasks that are unreasonably below or beyond a person’s skill level;
  • deliberately excluding, isolating or marginalising a person from normal work activities, e.g. excluding a worker from meetings or functions that everyone else attends;
  • withholding information that is vital for effective work performance;
  • deliberately denying access to information, consultation or resources;
  • deliberately changing work arrangements such as rosters and leave to inconvenience a particular worker or workers; and
  • unfair treatment in relation to accessing workplace entitlements, e.g. leave or training.
A wide range of injuries and illnesses can result from bullying, including anxiety, depression, insomnia, stress, self-harm, eating disorders, and even suicide. Harassment Workplace harassment is prohibited by anti-discrimination legislation in all states and territories. A common form of harassment is sexual harassment, which occurs when a person is subjected to any unwanted or uninvited sexual behaviour that is offensive, intimidating or humiliating. Sexual harassment can include the following types of behaviour:
  • unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature;
  • unwanted sexual advances or requests for sexual favours;
  • unwelcome remarks or statements with sexual connotations;
  • any unwelcome gesture, action or comment of a sexual nature;
  • staring or leering at someone in a sexual manner;
  • unwanted sexual or physical contact, e.g. kissing, inappropriate touching or hugging; intrusive questions about someone’s sexual activity; and
  • repeated invitations of a sexual nature when similar invitations have previously been refused by that person.
Discrimination Discrimination is treating a person less favourably than another person or group because of their race, colour, national origin, gender, disability, religion, or some other attribute or characteristic as specified under anti-discrimination or human rights legislation. There are two types of discrimination – direct and indirect. Direct discrimination is treating a person with a prescribed attribute differently than a person without that attribute. You will directly discriminate against an employee if the way you treat them is because of an attribute they have, or a characteristic that people with that attribute generally have (even if that is not the only reason for the treatment). If you treat an employee with an attribute less favourably than you treat or would treat another employee without that attribute in the same circumstances, that’s direct discrimination. Indirect discrimination is imposing a requirement, condition or practice on someone that a person with a certain attribute does not or cannot comply with. You will indirectly discriminate against an employee on the grounds of an attribute they have if you impose, or intend to impose, a workplace practice or requirement that is unreasonable in the circumstances and is likely to disadvantage people with the same attribute as the employee.

Top stories for Bullying, Harassment & Discrimination


Worker loses application for order to stop bullying

Bullying in the Workplace

A shopping centre cleaner who was excluded from joining a Christmas lunch was not bullied, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) has ruled. The worker’s employer expressed concerns about her work performance months after the event and had issued her with […]

By Portner Press on August 15th, 2019

Hospital charged over assault of nurse

Workplace violence

A Melbourne health service has been charged with alleged health and safety breaches following the assault of a nurse by a patient at one of its facilities. WorkSafe Victoria has filed three charges against Austin Health at the Heidelberg Magistrates’ […]

By Michael Selinger on August 8th, 2019

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

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 […]

By Portner Press on August 2nd, 2019

Your questions answered: Is non-disclosure of a pre-existing injury grounds for dismissal?

Discrimination in the workplace

Q Why does a failure of a prospective employee to disclose a pre-existing injury – that may impede the employee’s capacity to safely undertake their full range of duties – not enable an employer to terminate employment on the basis […]

By Portner Press on August 2nd, 2019

Your questions answered: Is non-disclosure of a pre-existing injury grounds for dismissal?

Discrimination in the workplace

Q Why does a failure of a prospective employee to disclose a pre-existing injury – that may impede the employee’s capacity to safely undertake their full range of duties – not enable an employer to terminate the employee’s employment on […]

By Portner Press on July 30th, 2019

Bullying not a reason for dismissal if allegations are unfounded

Bullying in the Workplace

In the case of Steven Biffin v XL Express Pty Ltd (2017), the Fair Work Commission (FWC) ordered an employer to pay about $50,000 in compensation to a manager it dismissed for bullying. The manager was dismissed for serious misconduct […]

By Portner Press on July 26th, 2019

Tradesman fined for bullying apprentices

Bullying in the Workplace

SafeWork NSW has convicted and fined a tradesman for bullying two young apprentices. Carpenter and joiner Paul Kearney pleaded guilty to a Category 3 breach under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW) for failing to comply with his […]

By Portner Press on July 19th, 2019

Sexually harassed police officer entitled to compensation, IR commission rules

Workplace Harassment

A female police officer whose workers’ compensation claim for sexual harassment was rejected has successfully appealed the decision. Her initial claim for a psychiatric injury was rejected on the grounds that the sexual harassment she received from a male colleague […]

By Portner Press on July 16th, 2019

Claustrophobic staff can be told to work in confined spaces: FWC

Discrimination in the workplace

A worker who developed severe claustrophobia after becoming trapped in an elevator can be required to continue working in confined spaces, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) has ruled. In 2002, a trade assistant for KONE Elevators Pty Ltd became trapped […]

By Portner Press on July 11th, 2019

After-hours sexual harassment was work related, Supreme Court Judge finds

Workplace Harassment

A process worker at a food packaging company has fought for four years to claim compensation for workplace sexual harassment, and her battle is not over yet. In September 2015, the Simplot Australia employee filed a claim for compensation under […]

By Portner Press on July 5th, 2019