Gossiping and Defamation May Be Considered as Bullying

by Oct 6, 2015

A case forwarded to Australia’s Fair Work Commission helped to provide some clarification on acts that may or may not constitute bullying following the anti-bullying regulations stated in the 2009 Fair Work Act Commission.

The case involved three parties working at a soap market stall in Fremantle Markets.  The complainant alleged that the owner of the neighboring market stall often stared at her in a hostile way, as well as spreading rumors about her and even cursed at her in one instance.  The complainant also claimed that an employee of a cleaning company working at the site once threatened her life for leaving soap crumbs on the floor.

The Fair Work Commission clarified that being threatened once and hostile looks do not constitute bullying.  On the threat, the Commission found that since it was a one-off incident, it failed to meet the definition of being bullied at work since the cleaning company worker did not repeat the offensive behavior.  However, the Commission observed that cursing at the complainant would fall under workplace bullying if repeated.  It also stated that gossiping about others at work would also constitute bullying.

Workplace bullying can come in many forms.  It does not always entail physical aggression or verbal outbursts, it can also happen through simple acts wherein sometimes the most unexpected behavior such as eye rolling may be considered as bullying.

To read more about the case, click here.

About Catherine Mattice

Catherine Mattice, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

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