Employer Successfully Rebuts Aged Care Worker’s Bullying Claim

by | Sep 7, 2017 | Aged Care Blog, Employment Law and Workplace Relations Blog

In a recent decision, the Fair Work Commission overwhelmingly accepted the evidence of a manager and supervisor of an aged care worker and found that the employee was not bullied by them. Commissioner Simpson held that in fact it was the conduct of the aged care worker that was inappropriate and that the conduct of the manager and supervisor was reasonable management action carried out in a reasonable manner.

The employee made multiple bullying allegations covering a period of approximately 3 years. Amongst those allegations she claimed that:

  • the first day she met the manager that the manager yelled and screamed at her in the office;
  • she was detained against her will when she was asked to complete paperwork regarding a car accident at the end of her shift;
  • the manager’s concerns about timekeeping were dealt with aggressively and with threats to refer the matter to HR;
  • she overheard her manager talking about her in derogatory terms;
  • the conclusions of an investigation into her conduct were not reasonable.

The employee’s attempts to portray her supervisor’s actions in dealing directly with her on day to day issues such as time recording, recording of medication administration, cleanliness of vehicles and rejection of a leave application as bullying was not accepted by the Commission. The Commission did not contradict the manager’s assertion that an employee cannot take the view that they are free from any obligation to communicate with their supervisor. While the Commission accepted the evidence of the supervisor and manager over that of the employee, the corroborating evidence of other witnesses was important. Other employees were able to verify the accounts of the supervisor and manager in respect of key events. Moreover, the contemporaneous notes taken by witnesses that were submitted in evidence were also important in rebutting the employee’s recollection of events. The employee’s strong perception that she was bullied was simply not borne out by the evidence.

The take home message from this case is that reasonable supervisory action involving the monitoring and correction of employee performance is not bullying. However, employers should ensure that where possible there are witnesses to difficult interactions with employees and that when incidents with employees occur that comprehensive notes are recorded and retained.  To read the full decision, click here.

Jenny Edinger

Jenny Edinger