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Bullying & Harassment in the Workplace

Bullying & Harassment in the Workplace

Workplace bullying is far more common than it should be. It can ruin a great job and make the culture of a company toxic and unproductive.

9th September 2020
Reading Time: 3 minutes


Workplace bullying and harassment is far more common than it should be. Accordingly, it can ruin a great job and make the culture of a company toxic and unproductive. However, all too often, it goes unreported. Victims are often unsure what qualifies workplace bullying and what to do when they experience it.

If you would like to learn more about workplace bullying and how the law can protect you, read on.

What is Workplace Bullying?

Workplace bulling involves the verbal, physical, social or psychological abuse by a person in a workplace. Significantly, some of these types of workplace bulling are criminal offences. Accordingly, if you have experienced violence, assault or stalking, you can report them directly to the police.

Workplace bullying occurs at work if:

  • a person or group of people repeatedly act unreasonably towards them or a group of workers; or
  • the behaviour creates a risk to health and safety.

Unreasonable Behaviour

Unreasonable behaviour that is considered workplace bullying includes:

  • repeated hurtful remarks or attacks that make fun of your work, or you as a person. This might include your family, sex, sexuality, race, culture, education or economic background;
  • sexual harassment, particularly unwelcome touching and sexually explicit comments;
  • excluding or stopping you from working with people or taking part in activities that relates to your work;
  • giving impossible tasks that can’t be done in the given time or with the resources provided;
  • physical harassment which might include pushing, shoving, tripping, grabbing you in the workplace;
  • attacking or threatening with equipment, knives, guns, or any other type of object that can be turned into a weapon;
  • victimising, humiliating and intimidating other members of staff;
  • using offensive language or making offensive comments;
  • giving unjustified criticism;
  • withholding information that is needed for work; or
  • threatening an individual or group of people.

As a result, unreasonable behaviour depends on whether a reasonable person might see the behaviour as unreasonable within the circumstances.

Bullying, Harassment and Discrimination

Bullying may also be discrimination. Accordingly, this could include targeting one’s age, sex, pregnancy, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion or specific other reasons. Sexual harassment and racial hatred are forbidden by the law. The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) will use conciliation between parties to reach a resolution.

Where to Get Help

For Employees

If you think that harassment has occurred within your workplace, you can speak with:

Fair Work Commission

If you are still employed, you are able to take action with the commission. You can apply to the Commission to stop bulling by:

If you are eligible, you can receive free legal advice about stopping bullying from the Commission’s Workplace Advice Service. Assistance will also be available if an order to stop bullying has been placed, but not followed.

Other Bodies

There are a number of state or territory workplace health and safety bodies where you can take action to. They can provide advice and assistance regarding workplace bullying, as well as appropriate referrals to other bodies. Further, national bodies such as the may be able to help.

For Employers

Employers or businesses have a duty to ensure the health and safety of their workers. Safe Work Australia’s Guide for preventing and responding to workplace bullying is a useful resource. This guide outlines workplace bullying and how to prevent and investigate it.

Fair Work Commission Assistance

It is important to learn about the rules and regulations behind workplace bullying. The Fair Work Commission’s anti-bullying guide is useful in understanding bullying in the workplace.

The Commission’s Workplace Advice Service also provides small businesses with free legal advice if they are eligible.

Performance management

Managers must carry out their actions in a reasonable way that is not considered bullying. To learn more information about how to reasonably manage employee performance, read the Managing performance & warnings best practice guide.


In conclusion, workplace bullying and harassment is a significant issue that all workplaces must minimise. Not only can it affect the business’ culture, leading to a higher staff turnover, but might also be illegal. Accordingly, it is necessary for workplaces to reduce workplace bullying by understanding and learning how to stop it. Further, it is important that employees are able to identify workplace bullying and speak up if it happens to them. If you think you have been subject to workplace bullying, you can contact Lawpath to find out more about rights.

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Daniel Lim

Daniel is a Legal Tech Intern at Lawpath. He is currently studying a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Commerce at Macquarie University. His primary interests are in commercial law, specifically in the areas of technology, intellectual property and media law.