Bullying in the Work Place, a Health & Safety Issue

A Plaintiff , who was the Employee, in the case referred to as FGH v RST 2018 had a judgment date of 1 June 2018 in Employment Court. The Plaintiff (employee) brought a disadvantage claim against her employer for Bullying.

This is an important case in that there is a long discussion in the judgment regarding the topic of bullying and how bullying relates to the safety of an employee in the workplace.

The Plaintiff (employee) claimed the employer had failed to provide a safe working environment. They had raised concerns with the employer on many occasions and the employer failed to manage the businesses own disciplinary policies thus subjecting the Plaintiff to unwarranted stress.

The Plaintiff had health issues which needed a special approach to the employment and it was suggested that the Employer should have taken steps to mitigate the risk. The Health & Safety at Work Act 2015 requires an employer to eliminate, minimise or manage the risks in the workplace.

In this case the lawyer for the employee acknowledged that the process of performance management may have been proper but suggested that it was carried out in a way that caused confusion, resentment, a feeling of injustice oppression and harm.

The lawyer for the employer submitted that it had met its legal obligations having regard to the knowledge it had at the time.

The real question the Court had to consider was whether what the employer did to address the safe working environment and the concerns of the employee was good enough in the circumstances.

The Employment Court did say that if an employer fails to provide a safe workplace or one where it does not meet its own health and safety requirements that the failure may be a ground for an unjustified disadvantage claim. This can be seen as duty to provide a safe workplace.

The Court commented:
1.that workplace bullying is a very serious and widespread problem.
2.that the consequences can be far reaching resulting in a hostile work environment, decreased worker health and well being and a loss of motivation.

The Court referred to the Employers policies on the matter and also to WorkSafe guidelines where bullying was referred to as repeated and unreasonable behavior directed towards a worker or group of workers.

The Plaintiff was ultimately successful in the disadvantage grievance.

The total award payable by the employer was $165,000.
(a) $60,000 for loss of income, less PAYE, student loan and Kiwi Saver details
(b) $45,000 for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings.
(c) $25,000 for costs incurred by the Authority and
(d) $35,000 for costs incurred in hearing the challenge in the Employment Court.

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James Findlay

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