When it comes to claims involving bullying and harassment in the workplace, there’s an overlap between personal injury law and employment law.
This is important to know because, if you’ve been bullied at work, you will need to seek advice from two professionals: a personal injuries lawyer and an employment law specialist. Combined, these lawyers will give you a complete understanding of all your legal rights.
The personal injuries perspective
Employers have a duty of care to ensure their employees are kept safe while they are at work. This applies to both physical and psychological injuries. An employer who allows bullying to occur in the workplace is not meeting their obligation to provide a safe workplace.
Bullying or harassment can include:
- humiliating abuse
- ignoring or excluding a person
- giving an employee tasks that are meaningless or unachievable
- undermining performance
- physical, sexual or verbal abuse.
An employer is vicariously liable for the actions of their employees. This means that the employer may not be directly aware of what has been going on inside the workplace but a claim may be brought against the employer rather than the bully directly.
The employment law perspective
A victim of bullying or harassment in the workplace may be entitled to damages for any psychological injury that results from such treatment, as well as associated medical expenses and resulting financial losses. Under the workers’ compensation laws in Queensland, a worker will be entitled to compensation for psychological injuries if the worker can show that the employment is the significant contributing factor to the injury and that the employer failed to take reasonable management action to prevent the injury.
What you can do
If you are being bullied or harassed at work, consider taking these steps:
- Tell your employer, HR officer or supervisor (unless he or she is the bully).
- Seek counselling and support.
- Go to your doctor to seek advice and help, but also to report the bullying.
- Seek out witnesses to the bullying or harassment.
- If you feel physically threatened, speak to the police.
- If you require medical treatment or have income loss as a result of the bullying, lodge an application for workers’ compensation.
- Obtain advice from an employment law solicitor and a personal injuries solicitor.