Workplace Bullying and Intimidation

Intent

To assist James Cook University to meet its responsibilities and obligations to its employees and relevant State and Federal laws.

Scope

All managers and supervisors have an obligation and responsibility to proactively promote a workplace free of workplace bullying and intimidation whether this is between supervisors and subordinates, between staff members, or between staff and students. Managers or supervisors who fail to act on incidents and reports of workplace bullying and intimidation may be in breach of University policies, agreements and the University Code of Conduct.

Definitions

Workplace Bullying” – “the repeated less favourable treatment of a person by another or others in the workplace, which may be considered unreasonable and inappropriate workplace practice. It includes behaviour that intimidates, offends, degrades or humiliates a worker" (source ACTUQ/QCCI/Qld Govt Dept of Workplace Health & Safety).

Bullying and intimidation is unsolicited action which may be direct or imposed by indirect means. It may occur in one-to-one situations, in front of managers or supervisors, co-workers, clients or customers or by written, visual, electronic communications such as letters, drawings, emails or telephone communications.

Bullying can take place between a manager or supervisor and a subordinate, between co-workers, and between a staff member and a student.

Policy and Procedures

1. Types of Behaviour

Bullying behaviours range from the very obvious such as physical and verbal assault and abuse through to the very subtle such as continually undermining another person. The following are examples of the types of behaviour that might constitute bullying and intimidation:

  • Physical or verbal assault;

  • Belittling opinions or constant criticism;

  • Yelling or screaming or offensive language;

  • Derogatory, demeaning or inappropriate comments or jokes about a person's appearance, lifestyle and background;

  • Insults;

  • Isolating workers from normal work interaction, training and development or career opportunities;

  • Overwork, unnecessary pressure and unreasonable deadlines;

  • Tampering with someone's personal effects, work materials or equipment;

  • An unacceptably aggressive style from a superior;

  • Undermining work performance by deliberately withholding work-related information, access, support or resources or supplying incorrect information;

  • Underwork, creating a feeling of uselessness;

  • Unexplained job changes, meaningless tasks, tasks beyond a person's skills and training, and failure to give credit where credit is due;

  • Over detailed supervision and unwarranted checking of performance;

  • Unreasonable "administrative sanctions" such as undue delay in processing applications for training, leave or expenses.

Bullying may comprise one or a number of the types of behaviour listed above.

2. Responsibilities of Managers and Supervisors

This policy recognises that in some situations, people may not be aware that their behaviour is unacceptable or offensive, because such behaviour has become part of the prevailing culture of the workplace. It is the managers/supervisors role to set acceptable standards and apprise staff of their expectations.

Managers and supervisors have a responsibility to:

  • Proactively promote a workplace free from bullying and intimidation and act on incidents;

  • Provide for appropriate training and information to staff of the work area about what are acceptable and unacceptable workplace behaviours;

  • Inform staff of the actions they can take if they feel they are being bullied or intimidated including provision of a list of designated harassment contact officers;

  • Arrange or provide adequate and appropriate support to staff who make a complaint about bullying, including ensuring that the matter is treated confidentially and that the complainant is not victimised;

  • Deal fairly with all persons involved in allegations of bullying and intimidation including ensuring due process.

3. Informal Complaints

A staff member who feels they are being bullied or intimidated may:

  • Raise the matter with the alleged perpetrator(s) of the bullying or intimidation by talking or writing to them;

  • Seek confidential advice, support and assistance from a discrimination and bullying adviser; including discussion of the most appropriate way of handling the matter;

  • Make an informal complaint to an appropriate manager or supervisor, asking that the alleged perpetrator be spoken to (the staff member may be accompanied by a discrimination adviser, another staff member or a union representative, should they so choose, in a meeting with the manager or supervisor. In cases where the alleged perpetrator is the staff member's manager or supervisor, the informal complaint may be referred to the next level manager or supervisor.)

4. Conciliation of Complaints

Staff members who feel they are being bullied or intimidated may seek to resolve the issues through conciliation. Requests for conciliation should be made by the staff member, or by a union delegate or officer on their behalf, to the Manager, Equal Opportunity. Conciliation shall be confidential and with the objective of reaching an agreed settlement between the person raising the allegation of bullying or intimidation and the person or persons complained against.

No person can be required to participate in conciliation but must be informed that allegations have been made against them which could lead to a formal complaint.

5. Making a Formal Complaint

A staff member who feels they are being bullied or intimidated is entitled to make a formal complaint to the Director, Human Resources. The complaint may be made by another staff member or a union representative should they so choose, on behalf of a staff member.

The complaint shall be in writing and provide sufficient information for the Director, Human Resources Management to assess whether an investigation is warranted. The Director may seek further information from the complainant or the union in order to ascertain whether an investigation is warranted. The complaint should include details of what informal steps have been taken to seek to resolve the matter or, if these have not been taken, why they are inappropriate.

Unless the Director, Human Resources Management is convinced that the complaint is frivolous or malicious, the Director will instigate an investigation of the complaint in circumstances where:

  • Informal efforts have not resolved the matter;

  • And/or someone complained against has refused to participate in, or withdrawn from, conciliation.

If the Director, Human Resources Management is convinced that the complaint is frivolous, vexatious or malicious, the Director may advise the Vice-Chancellor to further investigate this and consider disciplinary action.

6. Investigation of Formal Complaints

Where the Director, Human Resources Management assesses that an investigation of a complaint is warranted, the Director will instigate a formal investigation into whether or not bullying or intimidation has occurred and, if so, who have been the perpetrators.

The person(s) against whom the complaint is made will be informed of the allegations and advised of their entitlement to be assisted by a work colleague or a union representative, should they so choose. They will also be advised that the outcome of the investigation could lead to disciplinary action.

The Director shall ensure that whatever the outcome of the complaint, the complainant is not victimised.

The investigation may include gathering evidence from the complainant, the person(s) against whom the complaint is made and other relevant persons. The investigation shall be made in a timely manner, but ensure that everyone involved has adequate time and resources to provide relevant information. The report of the investigation shall be provided to the Director, Human Resources, the complainant and the person(s) against whom the complaint was made.

7. Action on the Report

On receipt of the report of an investigation the Director, Human Resources Management shall advise the Vice-Chancellor on:

  • Whether or not disciplinary action is warranted against the person or persons subject to the complaint;

  • Remedial actions which should be taken by the manager or supervisor of the complainant to prevent workplace bullying or intimidation;

  • Whether compensation or other restitution should be made to the complainant;

  • Whether counselling, conciliation or mediation should be provided.

8. Disciplinary Action

Any disciplinary action in regard to workplace bullying or intimidation will be taken in accordance with the Agreement under which they are employed. It is recognised that the report of the investigation into a formal complaint may be used to formulate allegations of misconduct or serious misconduct.

9. Privilege

All information gathered from participants in informal and formal complaints of workplace bullying or intimidation is privileged information so long as the complaint is made and dealt with in accordance with the University Workplace Bullying and Intimidation Policy. This privilege extends to employees of the University who are representing or assisting complainants and those complained against. The University undertakes to protect and indemnify such staff members by defence of qualified privilege.

This privilege does not extend to:

  • Evidence and actions of parties who acted with ill will or for any improper motive and who believes the defamatory matter to be untrue;

  • Situations where the manner or extent of the publication of defamatory material is excessive for the occasion; or

  • If defamatory material is irrelevant to the workplace bullying or intimidation matter attracting qualified protection.

Acknowledgement: This section on Legal Obligations was adapted from the information sheet included in “Workplace Bullying: An Employers Guide”, Queensland Government, Workplace Health & Safety, 2002

Approval Details

Policy sponsor:

Director, Human Resources Management

Approval authority:

Remuneration and Human Resources Committee

Version no:

00-1

Date for next review:

1/11/2010

Modification History

Version no.

Approval date

Implementation date

Details

00-1

31/12/2000