Kelly Tanner Workplace Bullying Case Awards $40,000 at the ERA - May 2011

By: Tauranga Advocacy Network  27-May-2011
Keywords: Employment, Consultant, Dispute Resolution

A recent determination in the ERA between a highlights the requirements of employers in dealing appropriately with issue’s of workplace bullying in an appropriate timely manner.

Advocate’s from Tauranga Advocacy Network were heavily involved in the initial case, and were the primary liaison between the two parties. Post-mediation, the case was attended by Warwick Reid of Reid Legal Services.

The employee had raised a complaint in January 2010 to the employer alleging bullying and requesting the employer investigate with an understanding of the negative health impacts the alleged actions were having on her.

The employer had no documentation between January and July 2010 to show that any substantial action had been taken to address the alleged bullying or protect the employee from further health – impacting stress, and took no steps to prevent the bully from striking again. In July 2010, the employee went on sick leave which would prove to be extended by medical certificates to early October 2011.

When the employer and our advocate met, we requested that they investigate the matter. It was pointed out to the employer however, that harm had already occurred to the employee, and that the lack of documented evidence of substantial action to protect the employee may well leave them liable under current legislation.

Several interesting points were gleaned from this case, and some other matters in recent news:

  • Egg shell skull principle - The eggshell skull rule (or ‘thin skull’ rule or ‘you take your victim as you find him’ rule of the common law) is a well established legal doctrine.
  • Vicarious liability for managers actions - meaning that the actions of an employee are, for the purposes of the law, regarded as the actions of the employer.
  • Mental harm (understanding) – details and definitions of mental harm, and the applicable legislation and payment expectations.
  • Workplace Bullying as a criminal action – becoming otherwise known as “Brodies law”, The Work Health and Safety Bill 2011 enacts the nationally agreed Model Work Health and Safety Act (Model Act) in NSW to take effect from 1 January 2012.
  • Firearms in the Workplace - it will be interesting to see if this gets any attention, as we believe it's just as important to tighten current firearms laws as it is to introduce new legislation.
This is one of New Zealand’s larger awards in a workplace bullying dispute. Workplace bullying is a serious matter that employers need to take more care than ever to manage appropriately. New Zealand is several years behind Australia in dealing with bullying from an Employment Relations perspective, employers and managers would do well to take heed that our cousins across the Tasman are now contemplating whether workplace bullying should be a crime punishable under law by a maximum imprisonment term of up to 10 years.

In light of this and the bullying cases, New Zealand employers should take great care in establishing and firmly implementing consistent and coherent policies and procedures to protect themselves and their employees from any harm.

Follow this link to find out more

Keywords: Advocacy Services, Advocate, Consultant, Dispute, Dispute Resolution, Employment, Employment Advocacy, Human Rights, Mediation, Workplace Bullying

Contact Tauranga Advocacy Network


Print this page