find the latest legal job
Senior Associate - Litigation & Dispute Resolution
Category: Litigation and Dispute Resolution | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Come work for a firm ranked in Lawyers Weekly Top 25 Attraction Firms
View details
Associate - Workplace Relations & Safety
Category: Industrial Relations and Employment Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Employer of choice · Strong team culture
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Banking and Finance Law | Location: All Perth WA
· Freelance opportunities through Vario from Pinsent Masons
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Adelaide SA
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Bullying bosses under payout hammer, say lawyers

Bullying bosses under payout hammer, say lawyers

BULLYING INCIDENTS are landing a growing number of businesses in serious legal and financial trouble, according to a workplace law firm, with awards for compensation in the hundreds-of-thousands…

BULLYING INCIDENTS are landing a growing number of businesses in serious legal and financial trouble, according to a workplace law firm, with awards for compensation in the hundreds-of-thousands — if not millions of dollars — becoming more commonplace.

Shana Schreier-Joffe, a partner at Harmers Workplace Lawyers, said employers have a responsibility to their workers to foster an environment and culture where bullying and harassment does not occur, and if it does, occurrences are reported and appropriately dealt with, no matter the type or frequency of bullying.

“The cost of bullying to employers is not just the potential financial penalties. Bullying in the workplace can lead to unmotivated staff, staff that take more days off from work and ultimately the company will experience a high level of staff turnover,” said Schreier-Joffe.

“If bullying is occurring in a work environment, it is up to the employer to change the culture of the workplace — or face the consequences. If an employee is too scared to talk to their boss, or their boss’ boss about a bullying incident, the employer may be liable.”

If an employer gives any indication that a bullying incident is not their problem, Schreier-Joffe said the employer will be just as liable. “Change cannot happen overnight, but concerted efforts by employers must be made,” she said.

The courts do not look favourably upon any organisation, regardless of size, that has an incident of bullying, but has no policy or procedure in place informing its employees how to deal with and report incidents of bullying or harassment, Schreier-Joffe said. Similarly, employers must ensure such policies are very clearly understood, and enforced.

In one recent case, an employee was awarded more than $500,000 by the Federal Court of Australia because the employee’s company had an anti-bullying policy, which was implied in the employee’s employment contract, yet the company did nothing to protect him against bullying.

“The rise in the number of bullying cases being dealt with by the courts, industrial tribunals and commissions has several important implications for HR professionals and HR departments in particular,” Schreier-Joffe said.

“Policies dealing with bullying and harassment need to be put in place by HR personnel in a company. Further, it is insufficient that there are policies dealing with the subject matter, HR must take steps to ensure all employees are well aware of the policies and how to deal with a circumstance of bullying or harassment.”

In circumstances where there is a culture of bullying as a result of management behaviour, Schreier-Joffe said HR professionals should firstly educate management in the risks associated with the behaviour, and ensure that the company has policies and procedures that appropriately deal with the issue.

“Thirdly, actively attempt to change management behaviour by continually educating those concerned regarding the costs to the business both financially and in lost work hours, low morale and high turnover,” she said.

Litigation over bullying will increase over the coming five years, Schreier-Joffe said. “We are likely to see more litigation raising bullying as a basis for breach of the employment contract and any policies of the employer dealing with the subject matter. We are also likely to see more acceptance by the courts of bullying as an unacceptable work practice giving rise to discrimination claims.”

In the current environment where there is a scarcity of skilled and qualified employees, she said employees will simply leave an employer which does not protect them appropriately from bullying and harassment. Employers will find this especially challenging with generation Y, who are far more mobile and less loyal to their employer, Schreier-Joffe said.

See more HR related stories at

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Bullying bosses under payout hammer, say lawyers
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Scales of Justice, ALA, right-to-die law
‘Right-to-die’ laws would be a relief for terminally ill: ALA
The passage of an assisted dying bill through the lower house of Victorian Parliament has been haile...
Diversity top of agenda for future WA Law Society president
The advancement of diversity in the Western Australian legal profession will be one of the key items...
Oct 23 2017
How to fail well
The legal profession is due for an attitude adjustment when it comes to perceived failures, accordin...
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...