Bullying suicide case a warning to small businesses

…charges of failing to provide and maintain a safe workplace, and failing to properly train and supervise employees. Director Marc Da Cruz was fined $30,000 and convicted of the same charges, while three employees were fined up to $45,000 each. The employees were found to have "tacitly approved" of bullying employee Brodie Panlock, including subjecting her to name-calling and pouring food over her. She eventually committed suicide… it is not just the companies liable, but individuals responsible for bullying that will be taken to task."

http://www.smartcompany.com.au
February 9, 2010

Bullying suicide case a warning to small businesses
Patrick Stafford

Businesses must be aware of workplace bullying and introduce principles to minimise harmful workplace activities, or run the risk of massive fines.

The warning comes as a Melbourne court has fined a business $220,000 for not preventing the bullying of an employee who eventually committed suicide as a result of her mistreatment.

SmartCompany legal expert Peter Vitale of CCI Lawyers says businesses must ensure they have put principles into place which emphasise the harm of workplace bullying, and actively put a stop to any dangerous activity.

"Absolutely this is an issue that has been drawing increased attention from the Work Cover authority. While there have been a couple of previous decisions this is certainly the highest profile case to date, and it's absolutely a warning to employees they need to take proactive measures to prevent this sort of behaviour in the workplace."

A Melbourne magistrate fined the Cafe Vamp restaurant $220,000 on charges of failing to provide and maintain a safe workplace, and failing to properly train and supervise employees. Director Marc Da Cruz was fined $30,000 and convicted of the same charges, while three employees were fined up to $45,000 each.

The employees were found to have "tacitly approved" of bullying employee Brodie Panlock, including subjecting her to name-calling and pouring food over her. She eventually committed suicide.

Vitale says this behaviour is not acceptable in any workplace, and says businesses must have clear workplace policies about what is or is not acceptable work behaviour.

"For a start, there should be education of employees about what kind of behaviour is not acceptable. This should be complemented by clear policies, and they should be enforced."

"If any employee breaches them and conducts themselves in an acceptable manner, they should be subject to disciplinary action."

Vitale says any breach of the policy could be a sackable offense, and that employees should be made "very aware" of the fact these policies are a management priority.

"This is a very poor reflection of the management of the ownership of this cafe. Of course, other businesses need to take steps to ensure it doesn't happen in their workplace."

"The authority has signalled very clearly to these individuals that it is not just the companies liable, but individuals responsible for bullying that will be taken to task."

http://www.smartcompany.com.au/legal/20100209-bullying-suicide-case-a-warning-to-small-businesses.html


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Risks: Abusive relationships of all kinds affects people deeply, Duty to maintain a safe workplace, Prison time potential, Suicide, Tacit approval, Violence, Workplace bulling, Australia, 20100209 Bullying suicide

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