Bullying: Rachael Roberts v VIEW Launceston Pty Ltd and ors [2015] FWC 6556

Published 5 October 2015

The Fair Work Commission has granted a real estate agent an order to stop bullying after she was subjected to aggressive lectures, ignored, belittled and defriended on Facebook by her Sales Administrator.

Ms Roberts, a real estate agent with the View Launceston franchise located in Tasmania, filed an application under s789FC of the Fair Work Act 2009 for orders to stop bullying at work.

Ms Roberts made 18 separate allegations against the principal and co-director of View, Mr Bird, and his wife, employed as a Sales Administrator, Mrs Bird, purporting unreasonable behaviour towards her, which constituted bullying.

Of Ms Roberts’ 18 allegations, 8 were accepted in regards to Mrs Bird’s conduct, including:

• Mrs Bird’s deliberate delay in performing administrative work which involved Ms Roberts’ property listings. President Wells found that Mrs Bird, in leaving a silent listing sheet nine days, which normally should take only one day to process, was unreasonable and a deliberate act designed to make Ms Roberts look unprofessional.

• Mrs Bird placing one of Ms Roberts’ clients into a collection service despite account arrangements that had been agreed to by both parties. The Fair Work Commission (FWC) found that such behaviour constituted a deliberate attempt to damage Ms Roberts’ reputation and her relationship with clients.

• Mrs Bird failing to acknowledge Ms Roberts when she arrived to work each morning and excluding Ms Roberts when distributing employee’s photo copying.

• Mrs Bird aggressively accusing Ms Roberts during a meeting of being disrespectful and undermining her authority, calling her a “naughty little school girl running to the teacher”. President Wells described the comment as “inappropriate… provocative and disobliging”.

• Mrs Bird deleting Ms Roberts as a Facebook friend. The FWC found that such conduct was indicative of “unreasonable behaviour” and a “lack of emotional maturity”.

The Respondent’s contended that such an order should not be granted as an anti-bullying policy and manual had since been established, thus alleviating the risk of bullying behaviour occurring in the workplace in the future.

The Commission rejected this submission with President Wells concluding the Respondent’s denial of any wrong doing or bullying behaviour was indicative of an inherent lack of understanding as to the nature of bullying, as well suggestive that such behaviour was likely to be repeated in the future.

The FWC ultimately held that Ms Roberts had been subjected to unreasonable behaviour by Mrs Bird repeatedly and over an extended period of time. This behaviour posed a significant risk to Ms Roberts’ health and safety, evidenced by Roberts’ diagnosis of depression and anxiety, medication, and treatment by a psychologist.

Consequently, Mrs Bird’s actions were deemed to fulfil the criteria of s789FD constituting bullying at work and an order to stop bullying at work, pursuant to s789FD, was granted.

Read the full decision here