Bullying: Ms Nadia Page [2015] FWC 5955

The Fair Work Commission has found that spreading misinformation or ill-will against others and criticising or gossiping about employees of neighbouring businesses constitutes workplace bullying if its occurs repetitively. In addition, this case demonstrates that bullying doesn’t have to be carried out by fellow employees but could be carried out by anyone an employee comes into contact with at work. 

Ms Nadia Page commenced employment with Corrynnes Natural Soap, a market stall within Fremantle Markets in 2010. The stall was placed next to Ms Teo Latham’s stall, Crystal Palace which she owned and operated.

Ms Page alleged that in 2012 the relationship between her and Ms Latham started deteriorating and Ms Latham often stared at her with a ‘hostile look’. Ms Latham also stopped responding to Ms Page’s “hellos” or “good mornings”. Ms Latham said that it had been her decision to terminate any cordial or neighbourly relationship that she had with Ms Page.

In February 2015, Ms Page alleged that Ms Latham told her to “get f…ed” and started telling other stall holders false stories about her which caused them to point and laugh at her.

Ms Page also alleged that in an unrelated incident, Mr Van Der Walt, who was employed to provide cleaning services to Fremantle Markets once threatened that he was going to kill her because she left soap scraps on the floor of the markets which he found difficult to remove. After this incident, Ms Page had no further contact with Mr Van Der Walt.

Ms Page filed an application for an order to stop bullying with the Fair Work Commission against Ms Latham and Mr Van Der Walt.

Decision

The Fair Work Commission was unable to find that Mr Van Der Walt or Ms Latham’s behaviour was repeated or that it continued to pose a risk to Ms Page’s health and safety. Both of these elements are required under section 789FD of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) for the Commission to find that Ms Page had been bullied at work and for an order to stop bullying to be made.

However, the Commission did make a number of findings in relation to whether gossiping or spreading rumours amounts to being bullied at work. The Commission said:

Bullying can manifest itself in many ways. I consider it uncontroversial to say that spreading misinformation or ill-will against others as bullying… This also goes for criticism/gossip… Scurrilous denigration of a worker in the workplace would certainly fall within the boundary of bullying.”

As the Commission was unable to find that Ms Page had been bullied, it dismissed the application, with a suggestion that Fremantle Market implement “therapeutic policies to assist in their expectations of how workers on stalls relate to each other in the market.”

Read the full decision here

 

 

* PCC Lawyers are a team of employment practitioners based in Sydney, with many years of combined knowledge and experience in workplace law, industrial relations, workplace investigations and training.  They provide a high standard of excellence and an exceptional level of personal service to a variety of clients in the Sydney metropolitan area, Central Coast, regional NSW and interstate.