KXBbwA September 2015 decision of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) resulted in a stop bullying order being made in favour of an employee of a real estate agency.

After a number of incidents between two employees, a confrontation took place between the employees in the tea room. One of the employees called the other a “naughty little school girl running to the teacher” and then defriended her on Facebook.  The Deputy President of the FWC said that action “evinces a lack of emotional maturity and is indicative of unreasonable behaviour… [she] took the first opportunity to draw a line under the relationship… when she removed her as a friend on Facebook as she did not like [her] and would prefer not to have to deal with her”.

Some of the reporting on this case has made much of the Facebook defriending incident. In the context of the case, however, it was one of the last in a long line of incidents between two employees with a broken relationship.  One employee’s response to their poor relationship was to belittle, humiliate, embarrass the other, and treat her differently from other employees.   It was repeated, unreasonable behaviour by that employee, which posed a risk to the health and safety of the other employee.  In fact, it resulted in her seeking treatment for depression and anxiety, and making a workers compensation claim against the employer.

The message for employers is to act promptly and reasonably when broken relationships at work start to turn toxic. Seek a mediated outcome between the employees, even engage a professional to assist, and avoid the stress, lost management time and cost of dealing with a stop bullying application before the FWC.

At Everingham Solomons, we can proactively and pre-emptively assist you develop your organisations approach to workplace bullying because Helping You is Our Business.

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