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NSW Employer gets Barrister (ex-employee) to Investigate Workplace Bullying & Discrimination

Discussion in 'Employment Law Forum' started by O'Shridan, 16 August 2014.

  1. O'Shridan

    O'Shridan Member

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    Hi,

    I recently raised a formal complaint of workplace bullying, harassment, discrimination and defamation against senior managers at the firm where I work [redacted by Moderator]. After several attempts by HR to placate me, I eventually pushed them for an external investigation. They assigned an independent HR strategist who has LinkedIn connections with one of the accused, so I asked HR for an impartial independent investigation and suggested that they use the services of the firms employee assistance company. However, HR assigned a barrister who specializes in employment law and has recently finished a 5 year tenure with the firm. I feel very uncomfortable that that have once again employed the services of a person (not an agency) with connections to the firm. Especially if the barrister's brief is really damage control/risk mitigation and myself and my several witnesses are playing into their hands?

    Without going into the background (way too detailed) this is the second time I have been bullied by this management team in the last 5 years. When I raised it before - HR got an psychologist/investigator to assess the situation. He said that my manager has traumatized me over a three year period and I suffered a psychological injury (psych reports). HR dismissed the manager but constructed a 'dysfunctional team/performance' issue as being the reason for letting him go instead of bullying and discrimination. There was no admission of liability or any redress. Two year later, I'm in the same boat again. The management team have subtlety isolated me and haven't given me any real work for two years (since I returned to work after the first incident), other than as an assistant to staff less qualified and experienced than myself.
    I've relapsed into major depression and anxiety again and am receiving treatment from my GP.

    The interview with their barrister is scheduled for Tuesday 18th. I don't know what to do - should I go ahead with the interview and show my hand, or should I decline the interview or maybe get an official body involved such as Workcover, Fair work Australia, etc?

    Thanks!
     
  2. John R

    John R Well-Known Member

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    Hi there,
    1. I assume that you've kept detailed notes/diary and reports from psychologists, doctors, etc. to support your allegations and document the events over the past 5 years. This documentation, clearly set out, will generally "make or break" a workplace bullying claim.
    2. Given the seriousness of the allegations and the response strategy taken by your employer, you should consider immediately engaging a lawyer to provide legal advice for your specific circumstances. The Law Society of NSW's "Find a Lawyer" service allows you to filter for accredited specialists in Employment & Industrial Law (the area of law that generally includes workplace bullying, etc.).
    3. You may consider contacting WorkCover NSW to lodge a workplace bullying complaint. That said, it is important to review their Workplace Bullying Response page to better understand how they can/can't help. You should also keep in mind that WorkCover NSW may take up to 20 working days to respond.
    4. You may also consider contacting the Fair Work Commission to apply for a stop bullying order. Please see the Fair Work Commission's Anti-Bullying page for further information.
    5. On a personal note, I understand that you are presently seeing a GP but if you feel like you need help, please consider calling your employer's employee assistance program (assuming that you are comfortable with their independence), beyondblue on 1300 22 4636 or Lifeline 13 11 14. beyondblue also offers web chat from 3pm to 12am each day.
    Hope this helps. Please keep us updated with your progress.
     
    WarrenH1244 and Worldly1 like this.
  3. O'Shridan

    O'Shridan Member

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    Thanks for the detailed response John R.

    To answer your questions...

    I have 'notes' of incidents over the past 18 months in the form of a mind-map. I haven't laid anything out in chronological order as of yet.
    I also have five witnesses to several incidents who are prepared to make statements, including being told by the managers in question that I wasn't to be included on projects, witnesses to personal attacks such as 'You know how he takes things personally' and 'he's sensitive', and even a bystander who went to one of the senior managers to say that he thought that her behavior towards me was intimidating - she showed no remorse, said she would do it again, and told him basically to choose where his loyalties lay!

    I'll contact a lawyer on first thing Monday to see what to do next.

    Thanks for the personal note too. I've already set up an appointment with the firm's employee assistance program for next Thursday. The difficult thing for me now is the stress that come on because they're using a barrister - I'm worried that they'll cover it up again and I'll be left without any justice.

    I'll keep you posted as requested.

    Cheers
     
  4. John R

    John R Well-Known Member

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    Hi @O'Shridan
    If you have time before speaking with a lawyer on Monday, you may consider collating your notes (and supporting reports, etc.) in some form of chronological order to make best use of your time (and budget) with a lawyer.

    Everyone records and processes complex information differently. Personally, I suggest keeping it simple:
    • introduce the "characters" on one page;
    • separate notable events into "scenes" that factually describe the events leading up the event, during the event and after the event;
    • use headings and bullet points instead of lengthy paragraphs; and
    • use dates, times and direct quotes (e.g. John said "X" to me) to support your allegations.
    Hope this helps.
     
    WarrenH1244 likes this.
  5. O'Shridan

    O'Shridan Member

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    Great advice John!! I've tried to document everything and I must say that I've been getting bogged down with lengthy statements - so thank you for the direction - very, very helpful!!!
     
    John R likes this.
  6. O'Shridan

    O'Shridan Member

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    Just a quick update...

    I spoke with a lawyer last week who specialises in employment law. They asked me to write a statement and send it to them, which I did.
    They suggested that I ask my employer to postpone any meetings, including the one with the barrister, for a few weeks. Since the complaint was only formally raised at the beginning of August, my lawyer said this should not be a problem.

    However, my employer said they would give one week only. Today, I re-advised my employer that we would like to postpose all meetings until further notice. My employers[HR dept] are refusing saying that it's inappropriate to wait any longer as the complaint impacts other people and they want it resolved as soon as possible.

    I'm waiting for my lawyers response.

    Given my current mental health, shouldn't my employer back off?? Can't I just decline the meeting? I'm feeling pressured and I don't want to be bullied into meeting with the barrister until I feel comfortable legally.
     

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