Address bullying and discrimination early – before they become multi-million dollar cases of the courts

Unfortunately, workplace bullying remains a feature of many Australian workplaces, with recent research by the University of South Australia finding that Australia ranks sixth in the world for cases of reported workplace bullying. Not only does bullying and harassment negatively affect workplace productivity, it can also lead to very expensive lawsuits and court fees. With the right training and instruction, you can ensure that your employees and co-workers have a full awareness of appropriate workplace behaviour.


According to Fair Work Australia, as defined by the Fair Work Act 2009, bullying occurs when a person or a group of people behaves unreasonably and repeatedly towards a worker or a group of workers while at work, and the behaviour creates a risk to health and safety. This is easy to explain in theory – but it can be difficult to ascertain a firm definition of bullying in practice, as it can be open to interpretation at an individual level.

The University of South Australia study found that 7% of Australian workers reported instances of bullying at work during a six-month period, with some cases bullying and discrimination so serious they were dealt with by a court. These cases demonstrate the casual disregard some Australian workplaces have for the unfair treatment of their staff.

In one instance, a worker promoted by her employer was openly demeaned and denigrated by the manager overlooked for the promotion. When the plaintiff complained to her supervisor, she was told her claims were ‘groundless and obtuse’. A claim for almost $340,000 was upheld by the NSW Supreme Court, on the ground that the plaintiff’s employer had been ‘negligently passive’ for the two years that the women was subject to the harassment.

In another bullying case to reach the courts, a Victorian woman was awarded $1.6 million in damages after her complaints of sexual harassment at the labouring company she worked for were no only ignored, but ridiculed by her supervisors. The court ratified the claim after it accepted that she was unlikely to ever work again, as a result of the severe psychiatric condition she had developed.

In yet another example, a female sales assistant who was working alone in a university law bookshop was persistently subjected to sarcasm, hostility, and rudeness by her male supervisor. After violently throwing a book at her, the assistant brought matters to the attention of the university board, who failed to take any action. The major depressive and anxiety disorder the woman suffered as a result of five years of abuse lead the Supreme Court of Victoria to award her almost $600,000 for damages and loss of past and future earnings.

Each of these cases demonstrate a clear disregard, or lack of awareness, of proper workplace behaviour. For this reason, the most important step that can be made to address problems of bullying or discrimination within a workplace is to educate all staff, management, and upper management on what exactly constitutes bullying, and how and why it is inappropriate in the workplace.


iHR Australia offers a range of comprehensive training programs that will help to improve the culture of your workplace. Our Anti Discrimination and Bullying Training Programs address relevant state and federal legislation, individual and leadership behaviour, workplace culture and the impact they have on compliance, performance and brand.

We have developed our training programs in conjunction with our unique Workplace Reality Theatre. With the assistance of two professional actors, an experienced iHR facilitator presents and examines a number of scenarios involving bullying or discrimination. Our experienced facilitators use the acted scenes as the basis for discussion, where the incidents are dissected and analysed to guide training participants through various examples of appropriate and inappropriate workplace behaviour.

All of iHR Australia’s training content and Workplace Reality Theatre can be customised to ensure they are entirely relevant to your organisation’s structures, needs and challenges – such as amending scripts or language to reflect the setting or team culture of your organisation. Your organisation’s policies can also be included and training can be modified to focus on particular objectives, specific behaviours or cultural issues. Customised training has been shown to encourage a deeper understanding of the subject matter and it’s context.