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The Australian legal framework for workplace bullying
Comparative Labor Law and Policy Journal (2010)
  • Joan M Squelch, The University of Notre Dame Australia
  • Robert Guthrie, Curtin University

The health and safety of employees is of paramount importance in a workplace. Bullying in the workplace can create an unsafe, hostile, and threatening working environment that can have a profound effect on the health and safety of employees. Although there is no single definition of workplace bullying, most definitions, whether academic or statutory or arising from developments in case law, state that workplace bullying is "persistent" and "repeated" behavior and that there is generally an imbalance of power between the target of bullying and the bully. Namie and Namie,(FN1) for instance, describe bullying at work as the "repeated, health-harming mistreatment of a person by one or more workers that takes the form of verbal abuse; conduct or behaviors that are threatening, intimidating, or humiliating; sabotage that prevents work form being done; or some combination of the three." Well documented examples of workplace bullying include: abusive and offensive language; intimidation; unreasonable excessive criticism; threatening to withhold promotion or some other benefit; imposing undue pressure and unreasonable workloads; undermining a person's work performance; withholding information; initiation and pranks; physical abuse and threats; spreading malicious rumors and gossip about a person; and ostracizing a person.(FN2) Cyber bullying--via email, text messaging, and the Internet--is also a more recent phenomenon in the workplace. Such workplace bullying may have serious health and psychological costs for the victims that ultimately impact the employer. In addition to the more obvious physical consequences, bullying often has far more serious and lifelong psychological consequences for the victims such as anxiety, fear, depression, panic attacks, low self-esteem, and suicidal tendencies. Often these symptoms of serious psychological harm render a person unfit for work leading to absenteeism, reduced productivity, and stress claims.(FN3)
Publication Date
Citation Information
Squelch, J., and Guthrie, R. (2010). The Australian legal framework for workplace bullying. Comparative Labor Law and Policy Journal, 15(2010-2011), 15-54