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VIC Help with Dealing with Workplace Bullying and Defamation?

Discussion in 'Defamation Law Forum' started by TeachersPet, 10 August 2017.

  1. TeachersPet

    TeachersPet Member

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    Hi everyone,

    This is my first post and I will try to be as concise as I can on a convoluted situation.

    I am a volunteer in an Incorporated Association with no employed staff. I manage the training program and approximately 50 instructors who take the classes. The two people who held this role before me have remained at the club and attempted to control many aspects. They are well known as bullies and control freaks. Various people have been victims of their bullying, however, at the beginning of this year, the intimidation towards myself became unbearable as I'd had major surgery.

    I asked executives of the association to intervene on my behalf but was told to 'wait'. The workplace bullying by these two is well known and endemic within the club. The newest committee has felt powerless to do anything due to the long duration and previous acceptance of this behaviour.

    I made a verbal complaint to committee and then after a month made a formal written complaint outlining the bullying and intimidation. Still there was a reluctance to rectify this. Only when I said, I would not accept the nomination for the position again last May, was i told something would be done. That something was for me to dismiss one of these persons as instructors in the hope that the other would leave.

    Since the dismissal of the first person there has been several defamatory remarks made via email by him. Two weeks ago, he sent an 'open letter' to instructors outlining false allegations made about me. He has breached our privacy policy by doing this and this is in the hands of a solicitor. A cease and desist letter was sent to him outlining his use of a private mailing list as well as the defamatory remarks made and identifying me. The bullying and intimidation was also mentioned.

    The club requested he send me a formal apology and he send a formal apology to the committee and membes of the club and also a retraction of the defamatory statements he made, within 7 days. 7 days have passed and no apology to me has been received, he did send one to the club stating something to the effect that he was only sending it as his wife was stressed and he intimated that if anyone had been offended by his content then he apologised. This is not an apology in my eyes, it's simply saying if you were offended that's your problem.

    As the club has a solicitor working on their behalf and in all honesty the committee as an entity has been brought under scrutiny, I feel that perhaps, I should look in another direction and get my own legal advice. I feel the club has been negligent in their duty of care towards me and i am bearing the brunt of his displeasure.

    My main concern is as I understand it...I would have to take legal action against the club not him as they did not protect me in the first instance. Is that correct? I do understand that the lack of acting on the bullying and defamation quickly was due to a lack of knowledge on how to proceed, however I feel ignorance is not a good enough defence.

    My biggest issue is I am 100% for the ideals and aims of the club, and all in all most are a great bunch of people. It's just not right that I am the one who is bearing the brunt of this person's defamation. It has not only called into question my personal reputation/motives but that of the role I administer.

    Would I concentrate on the known bullying that I was subjected to, or simply the defamation?

    Any input would be appreciated.
     
  2. Rod

    Rod Well-Known Member

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    Your cause of action for bullying is against the organisation and bullying, and defamation is against the person who sent the letter/email.

    I don't know though if a volunteer organisation qualifies as a workplace.

    Saying "I'm sorry if I offended you ..." is not an apology. No remorse is expressed and doesn't address the actions performed by the other person.

    You would have to send your own demand letter asking for the retraction before undertaking your own defamation action.
     
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  3. TeachersPet

    TeachersPet Member

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    Thanks Rod,

    My subject line got changed somehow from query about defamation and bullying to the current one. i don't know how, and am not sure how to change it back. I didn't include 'workplace'.

    So, as I understand it I would need to send a "cease and desist" letter, asking for it to stop and specifically ask for the retraction and apology. Can I put the bullying/intimidation in that same letter? Can I do this without seeing a lawyer? Then if he does not comply I go to another lawyer rather than the one the club is using?

    I'm not looking for any sort of claim, i just want the retraction and apology to clear the air at the club and make life enjoyable again.
     
  4. Rod

    Rod Well-Known Member

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    1. You can, but probably best to separate the issues into 2.

    2. Yes. Depends on how confident you are sussing out what needs to go in the letter. Normal time versus money trade off applies.

    3. Yes, in case of a conflict of interest. There is likely to be a conflict due to your related bullying complaint.
     
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  5. TeachersPet

    TeachersPet Member

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    Thank you again Rod,

    i feel I now know which way to go. The club secretary did ring me last night and asked if I would accept that "apology". I made it quite clear I would not, and will be taking steps in regards to the defamation directed at me. The club can attend to the defamation directed at them if they wish; this was more of attacking committee as an entity, rather than any single people. i was the only one identified.

    The bullying is another issue and now this person no longer holds a volunteer role he is out of the picture in regards to bullying me at the club. The defamation stemmed from his long enablement of the bullying towards several other members and volunteers, however I understand it is a separate issue. If I can get an apology and public retraction of the defamation I will leave the bullying alone. My complaint has brought into force finally an anti bullying policy which was not there before, so some good has come of the whole situation.

    I feel I can do the letter myself I have the time and university library at my disposal.

    Your input is much appreciated,

    Barb
     
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