A coworker is making this man’s life “hell,” but what can he do to improve his situation at work?
Welcome to the weekly column of Sisters in Law, news.com.au, which solves all your legal problems. This week, our resident attorney and real-life sisters Alison and Jillian Barrett from Maurice Blackburn offer advice on what to do when a work colleague makes life difficult for you.
I am having a hard time at work and it has made me think about what bullying is at the workplace. A coworker (who is my equal and not my boss) is making my life hell.
I started a year ago and from day one it has been tough.
She is nice in front of people but in private messages she makes me feel small by downplaying my words and rubbishing my thoughts. Even though she’s not my manager, she orders me to move around.
I’ve screengrabbed his messages but other than that I don’t know what to do. Every time I see an email pop up from him my heart breaks and I get worried.
I know other people have had difficulties with her, but I don’t know if she has ever been reported to HR. what can i do? – Eric, Victoria
It sounds like this has been a very challenging period for you Eric, and it’s time to take some proactive steps to make sure this condition doesn’t further impact your health.
Employees who are subject to bullying and harassment in the workplace often put the issue aside and wait until it gets really bad before taking steps to resolve it.
Bullying in the workplace is repetitive and inappropriate behavior towards a worker or group of workers that poses a risk to health and safety.
Some behaviors that may be considered inappropriate may include:
1. Unreasonable criticism (possibly ‘fucking your thoughts’ as you described)
2. Offensive language or comments
3. Excessive scrutiny of performance
4. Intentionally exclude someone from workplace activities
It sounds like the behavior you describe is happening regularly and could be classified as bullying.
You did the right thing by keeping screengrabs of private messages being sent to you.
Any records or notes you can make of what happened and when will be useful as evidence of what is happening.
You should find out if your employer has a bullying policy and reporting process, and if so, follow the recommendations therein.
That policy will usually first ask you to speak to your supervisor about human resources or behavior.
You can also contact your coworkers who have had difficulties with the offender as well and encourage them to report the behavior.
If talking to your employer and sharing your concerns doesn’t change the behavior, you should make a complaint in writing.
Your complaint should mention any evidence you have. Be brief and stick to the main points. It would be helpful to include the effect the behavior has on your health.
Your employer is responsible for providing you with a safe workplace. This includes making sure you are not subject to bullying or harassment of any kind, and taking steps to protect you and your health.
Depending on who your employer is, your employment may be covered by national anti-bullying laws. You will not be covered if your employer is a sole trader or partnership, nor are some government departments.
You may be eligible to file an action to stop bullying with the Fair Work Commission.
As well as national anti-bullying laws, workplace bullying may be covered by discrimination laws, general protections under the Fair Work Act 2009, unfair dismissal laws, employment contract laws, enterprise agreements in the workplace, and occupational health and safety laws. .
The Commission offers a free legal advice service through the Workplace Advice Service (for those not represented by an attorney or union member), so you should contact them to check your eligibility and request assistance.
You should also be aware that if you suffer an injury (such as a concern) caused by your employment, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation for time off or medical treatment.
As you can see your rights may vary with regard to workplace bullying, so the sooner you act and/or seek advice, the better.
This legal information is general in nature and should not be construed as specific legal advice or relied upon. Individuals in need of specialized legal advice should consult an attorney.
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