Recent employment cases have emphasized the risks for employers of not dealing with workplace bullying.

In a recent case, an employee was awarded $9,000 compensation by the Employment Relations Authority after being bullied by her immediate manager.  The Authority found that the employee was subjected to regular unfounded criticisms, denigration, and verbal abuse, resulting in her leaving her job.

This was followed by the case of Daniels v Maori Television Service, where a reporter from the Maori Television Service was awarded $16,000 compensation for humiliation and distress.

The Authority found that Ms Daniels was treated unfairly, including having her Manager make homophobic remarks, unlawfully requiring her not to attend public protests in her own time, and a general approach resulting in the employee feeling isolated and excluded within the workplace.  The award of $16,000 for humiliation is higher than the usual range of awards where there has been no financial loss, and reflects the willingness of the Authority to make significant awards where bullying is established.

We recently acted for an employee who was subjected to ongoing abuse from others in the workplace, including her immediate manager.  Despite raising her concerns formally with the employer, no steps were taken to address the issues.  In that case we were able to settle on very good terms, with the employee receiving the equivalent of six month’s wages, and a positive reference.  This allowed her to make a fresh start in a new job environment where workplace bullying is not accepted.

The message is clear “Employers cannot allow workplace bullying”, and there is an obligation to address such issues immediately when they arise.  Employees should not tolerate workplace bullying, and if it continues, should take professional advice.