In a recent case a casual medical receptionist who claimed to have been bullied by three of her colleagues has had her application for a stop bullying order dismissed, with the Fair Work Commission clarifying the limits of its anti-bullying jurisdiction.

The receptionist claimed that her colleagues had teased her, had made practical jokes, had displayed aggression and had ignored her in the workplace. She said that she had been made to feel ‘uncomfortable’ and she said that this had affected her mental state.

The receptionist also said that she found it “confronting” to have been directed by her supervisor to return to her duties after it was discovered that the reception area had been left unattended for up to 40 minutes.

The decision

Despite the numerous allegations raised, Commissioner Cloghan dismissed the application. While acknowledging that the Fair Work Commission has the power to order others to stop bullying, the Commissioner found that “the alleged bullying was over-estimated and insubstantial”.

Commissioner Cloghan pointed out that individuals are sometimes overly sensitive to what is happening around them. For this reason, the worker’s perspective must be balanced against the conduct of others. This conduct includes reasonable management action that is carried out in a reasonable manner.

In dismissing the application, the Commissioner concluded that the anti-bullying provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009 are designed to protect workers from behaviour that is bullying; not his or her own self-belief or feelings of hurt and discomfort.

What is ‘reasonable management action carried out in a reasonable manner’?

Reasonable management action refers to your ability to exercise your managerial prerogative in an appropriate manner. This includes:

  • responding to poor performance;
  • taking necessary disciplinary action;
  • directing and controlling the way work is carried out; and
  • giving workers fair and constructive feedback on their performance

As the above decision highlights, a worker is not bullied if the alleged bullying is in fact reasonable management action that has been carried out in a reasonable manner.

How HR Assured can help

What is perceived as ‘reasonable management action’ is highly contextual. It is therefore essential that you implement effective workplace policies and procedures that you can rely upon.

For more information on the recommendations and what this means for you, clients should contact the HR Assured team. If you’d like more information about the benefits of becoming an HR Assured client contact us today for a free initial consultation.