In a recent case, a supervisor has been convicted and fined for his part in workplace bullying.

The defendant was a supervisor in a business that was carrying out work at a construction site.

Another employee of the business squirted flammable liquid onto an apprentice and lit it. The defendant took no steps to stop the other employee and also squirted flammable liquid onto the young apprentice.

Luckily the apprentice was not seriously burnt in the incident.

The defendant was convicted, as he owed a health and safety duty and did not take reasonable steps to stop the workplace bullying. In addition, weight was placed on his own bad behavior in participating in the bullying.

Despite the incident being accepted as, ‘horseplay which got out of hand’, it was held that the imbalance of power and authority between the supervisor and apprentice made it harder for the apprentice to resist what he was subjected to.

In the interests of general and personal deterrence, the defendant was ordered to pay a fine of $12,000.

The other employee is still awaiting a hearing on the charges he faces.

Although this case occurred in South Australia it is very relevant to the New Zealand context as the legislation is closely modelled on the relevant laws in the case.

It is a reminder that your duty as a manager extends to preventing such workplace bullying and not letting it happen in the workplace.

Alan Knowsley
Employment Lawyer