iKeep Bookkeeping | Bullying Prosecution Results in Conviction and Fine for Company and Director

Bullying Prosecution Results in Conviction and Fine for Company and Director

Under work health and safety legislation, persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) have a duty to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers in the workplace. Workplace bullying is recognized as a health and safety risk that must be managed like any other risk.

WorkSafe Victoria recently succeeded in prosecuting a printing company and its director for breaching the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) (OHS Act) due to the bullying of a subcontractor.

Printco (Aust) Pty Ltd was charged with failing to provide and maintain safe systems of work, in breach of the OHS Act. The company’s director faced separate charges as an officer for failing to take reasonable care.

Over four years, the subcontractor experienced verbal abuse, intimidation, and threats from the director, resulting in anxiety and a mental injury that left the subcontractor unable to work. A notable incident occurred in August 2021 when the director yelled and swore at the subcontractor over the phone for questioning work during COVID-19 lockdowns.

An investigation by WorkSafe Victoria revealed that other workers had also been subjected to the director’s bullying behavior.

In the Victorian Magistrates Court, WorkSafe Victoria demonstrated that the company’s anti-bullying policy and procedures were inadequate. Specifically, they lacked:

– Information on how to report inappropriate workplace behavior.
– Definitions or examples of bullying.
– Anti-bullying training for workers.

WorkSafe Victoria argued that it was reasonably practicable for the employer and the director to provide and maintain a safe system for identifying, reporting, investigating, and stopping inappropriate workplace behavior, including bullying.

Both the company and the director pleaded guilty and were each fined $20,000 by the Victorian Magistrates Court, totaling $40,000, and were ordered to pay $9,309 in costs.

Lessons for Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking

Bullying and harassment are psychosocial hazards that can lead to psychological injury. PCBUs have a duty to eliminate, or if not possible, minimize psychosocial risks as far as reasonably practicable. Employers must have clear policies and systems in place to prevent workplace bullying and conduct anti-bullying training.

This prosecution underscores that PCBUs and individuals, including officers and other workers, can face criminal convictions and penalties for breaches of work health and safety regulations.

*Note: The information provided in this blog is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Workplace Law does not accept liability for any loss or damage arising from reliance on the content of this blog, or from links on this website to any external website. Where applicable, liability is limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.*



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