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Case: Watts [2018] FWC 1455

In Watts [2018] FWC 1455 the Applicant, Ms Watts, employed as a catering assistant with Ramsay Health Care, lodged an application to the Fair Work Commission claiming her employer had failed to investigate complaints she had made about being bullied by her colleagues.

The Fair Work Commission concluded that the Human Resources Advisor and the Hotel Services manager ‘consciously and unreasonably’ decided against investigating the Applicant’s bullying complaints even after they had been made aware of their existence on multiple occasions. Commissioner Williams accepted the Applicant’s application for orders to stop her colleagues from bullying her.

The facts

In April 2017 the Applicant, Ms Watts, received correspondence from her Catering Manager alleging six instances of misconduct relating to her last shift. While investigating the allegations, the Applicant disclosed that she had been the subject of bullying and harassment from a ‘handful of staff members … who did not like [the Applicant].’ To this regard, the Applicant provided her Catering Manager with contact details of her previous manager and current colleagues to verify her account.

In August 2017 the Hotel Services Manager met with the Applicant to discuss her recent claims of harassment and explained that they would not conduct any further investigations because the Applicant had not formally contacted management immediately after the alleged bullying incidents. At the request of her manager, the Applicant attended a ‘Fitness for Work Assessment’ in which she reiterated her claims of bullying.

In September 2017 the employer was made aware of particulars the Applicant had made to her union about the alleged bullying and harassment she had experienced in the workplace. Again, the Applicant’s Hotel Services Manager and Human Resources Advisor did not investigate her allegations as they were ‘not sufficiently particularised’ but did, however, hold bullying education sessions for its staff that included colleagues the Applicant had disclosed were bullying her.

Decision

Commissioner Williams relied on the Applicant’s multiple disclosures to management (about her bullying and harassment) to conclude that the Hotel Services Manager and HR Advisor had failed to act in accordance with Ramsay Health Care’s anti-bullying policy. The Commissioner noted that they had ‘imposed their own requirements’ that were, in itself, inconsistent with the employer’s workplace policy.

Turn to Turner Freeman

Watts [2018] FWC 1455 is indicative of an employer’s duty and responsibility to investigate all claims of workplace bullying or harassment, especially in circumstances where an employee has not only disclosed bullying incidents once; but, on multiple occasions. If you have experienced workplace bullying or harassment, Turner Freeman have lawyers who specialise in employment law you can contact on 1300 698 263 to discuss any enquiries.

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