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Does photographing a colleague's work constitute workplace bullying?

Q: One of our workers has been taking photos of a co-worker in relation to their work quality (or the lack of it), then handing it to their section manager. This is causing unreasonable pressure on the worker who is being photographed. Would this constitute workplace bullying?

A: If the photographing occurs on more than one occasion or is part of a broader pattern of behaviour directed toward the worker, it could constitute workplace bullying.

Workplace bullying is defined under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act) as repeated unreasonable behaviour directed toward a worker that creates a risk to health and safety. Bullying behaviour may be either intentional or unintentional.

Workplace bullying may give an employee a right to make an application to the Fair Work Commission for a stop bullying order under the FW Act.

If the worker being photographed does have quality issues with their work, some form of performance management may be warranted. However, a performance
management process may still give rise to bullying if the performance management actions are unreasonable.

Some of the relevant considerations to determine whether a performance management action is reasonable includes:

  • the impact of the performance management action on the worker;
  • the way the performance management action has been carried out, e.g. whether the action is consistent with workplace policies and procedures; and
  • the circumstances that have led to the performance management action.

Chapters B1 Bullying and P1 Performance Management in your Health & Safety Handbook contain relevant information in these areas.

Please note: The answer is correct at the time of publishing. Be aware that laws may change over time. Refer to Bullying for current advice.

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