WA Harassment and Workplace Bullying - Seek Compnesation?

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11 February 2016
I work for a large state government organisation and in March 2015, I was subject to an episode of workplace bullying after a disagreement with a colleague. I was verbally abused in front of other workers and verbally threatened and intimidated in front of other colleagues as well as people from outside the organisation.

I made a formal written complaint regarding the behaviour of my colleague. My complaint was never formally acknowledged despite my superiors telling me my complaint was being taken seriously. The perpetrator, however, was not given notice of my complaint until approximately 7 weeks later. He remained at work for nearly 3 weeks after the initial incident and then went on a period of leave. I have since found my organisation's grievance resolution policy which states once a grievance against an employee has been raised the resolution process must begin within 5 business days. This did not happen.

After making the complaint I was subject to several months of continued harassment including verbal abuse, rude gestures as we crossed paths, emails sent out about me to other colleagues which some forwarded to me, intimidating behaviour such as constant staring at me, etc, etc, etc. All this was documented and I continued to complain.

Approximately 6 months later, I was advised by colleagues who had witnessed the initial incident that they had been asked by investigators to provide statements of what they had witnessed during the initial incident.

I asked for updates from the powers that be and I was constantly told it was taking longer than expected and the matter was taken seriously.

I was initially told we would not be set to work with each other or around each other however this has happened on many occasions forcing me to take time off and my personal leave deducted. I have refused to work with this person and I have been supported in this decision, however, we regularly cross paths and the behaviour continues.

It is not approaching 11 months since this started and I am recently told the bully has challenged the disciplinary clauses of our industrial agreement (due to a typo in the clauses) and it may end up in the industrial relations commission.

I feel I have been mistreated by my organisation and left completely in the dark throughout the whole process. My complaint was never formally acknowledged and I have never received voluntary updates or information - it has only ever come after me asking and even then it is sketchy at best. I feel this process has been handled very poorly given the time length involved in such a serious manner.

I would love to hear people's thoughts about what I should do as I have a number of colleagues telling me I should be engaging a lawyer to seek compensation. I am not really sure if a lawyer can help me at this stage, though?


Employers have the primary duty under the WHS Act to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that their employees are not exposed to health and safety risks which includes having systems in place to prevent and respond to bullying. If you tell your employer you have experienced bullying they should respond quickly and reasonably in accordance with their own policies and procedures, treating all reports seriously.

They should also„ tell you how the process will be dealt with , allow you to explain your version of events and„ maintain a neutral position towards the parties. They should also advise you of support options such as counselling.

If the issue is resolved then your employer should come back to you at a later date to ensure the actions they have taken have been effective. They may also decide to investigate workplace bullying allegations with the help of an external investigator - which it appears your work is doing.

In terms of compensation your options are either to complain to the fair work ombudsman can investigate breaches of the federal fair work legislation and award that fines be paid to victims, or sue your employer for breach of civil contract if it has failed to comply with its own policies. The latter, however, is difficult to establish and is often costly and long and drawn out.

I would contact Worksafe WA and chat to them about your options or alternatively the FWO