VIC Is this a Workplace Bullying Case?

Discussion in 'Employment Law Forum' started by m_luke, 18 September 2018.

  1. m_luke

    m_luke Member

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    Hello Forum Readers,

    Would like some help on this matter that I am facing. Sorry for the enormous length as I have tried to be as impartial as possible.

    Would this be a case of workplace bullying or something else?
    • I am remotely managed by a manager in Qld (as per formal org-chart) and report-in to two manager-designated team leaders who are located in NSW and Qld.
    • I have worked in current role/organisation for eleven years in an IT support role with unblemished work record for the first nine-and-a-half years, but things turned bad when new manager started one-and-a-half years ago primarily characterised by communications issues
    • Two years ago, workplace started adopting the use of G*Hangout tech for all internal communications - video and voice calls, instant messages and meetings
    • IT policy stipulated use of this tech as primary form of internal comms. Video calls were/are encouraged although this is not specifically stated in any policy
    • Being both camera-shy and conscientious of information security practices, I software-disabled the webcam on my laptop effectively 'killing two birds with one stone'
      • I can accept still-frame photos, but motion cameras and webcams directly pointed at me are a no-no. I can tolerate security cameras as they are generally positioned far away
      • My camera-shyness is not medically diagnosed, but thought it was common enough that it is generally accepted as an 'illness'. I also accept that it is a little embarassing so have usually kept this to myself
    • My workarounds were:
      • In formal meetings, I would use webcam-equipped meeting rooms and intentionally sit off-side rather than directly at the camera to alleviate my camera-shyness
      • For adhoc calls, I would try and do the best I can by either using the smartphone G*Hang0ut app and treat them as voice calls or use the laptop application, but with webcam switched off in both instances
        • Call stability on G*Hang0ut app on work-smartphone has been a minor issue - sometimes call dropping, sometimes functioning without issue
    • These workarounds worked without much issue, until...
    -- Jan 2018 --
    • My manager became incensed when I divulged that I had disabled the webcam in a regular report-in hampered by many tech foibles. Have since learned that he has a short-fuse regarding tech foibles
      • Initial explanations of information security practices followed by my uncomfortableness with webcams were not accepted
      • Instructed to make adequate checks before meeting start time and re-enable laptop webcam
    • I continued to use a meeting room in formal meetings where I place laptop (with webcam switched on) as far as possible and off-side to comply
      • At this stage, I was also seeing a psychologist for other personal matters and when I discussed this issue of camera-shyness, it was recommended verbally that I do this - webcam placed as far as possible and off-side
    • My method was begrudingly accepted at first with no complaints, but eventually he did complain requesting that:
      • A letter of recommendation from an appropriately qualified medical professional proving just such a recommendation was made akin to prove of a physical impairment
      • Justified the above request is supported by the corporate National Safety Manager
    • I was flabbergasted. When I passed this request to my psychologist, she instead offered to talk to my manager directly
    • I provided my manager with her contact details, but confirmed with psychologist that no calls were received from him
    • I continued to treat adhoc calls as voice calls and left the webcam off. No colleagues or senior managers voiced any concerns or issues with this
    • Sadly my manager continued to take issue and demanded that webcam be turned on for all adhoc G*Hang0ut calls. I repeated that I was not comfortable with having to use a webcam so close, mentioning this as 'an evil eye'
      • When offered to answer such calls as normal voice calls similar to a phone call, there was ranting saying 'I don't understand why you cannot be like everyone else with webcam turned on'; no affirmative or negative response followed
      • I also promptly reinstalled G*Hang0ut app on work-smartphone to try and fix call stability issue, but to no avail
    • Call stability on G*Hang0ut app on work-smartphone continue to be a minor issue - sometimes call dropping, sometimes working without issue
    -- March 2018 --
    • One fateful day where my manager made an adhoc call, I answered the call on smartphone, but it dropped out. This repeated 3 times and I apologised on every reattempt. Needless to say, his temper grew
    • On the final G*Hang0ut call on smartphone, he instructed me to switch to using G*Hang0ut on my laptop so I complied
    • 1 min after G*Hang0ut call on smartphone ended, he called by mobile phone and demanded my presence. I replied that I was in the midst of starting G*Hang0ut on my laptop to call him
      • He was impatient, venting, he says: "Why is it taking so long! You should just click video call [button] and it would just work!"
      • I responded by saying: "Just starting it up, will be calling you very shortly." I ended the phone call
    • Once G*Hang0ut-on-laptop was running, I also connected the external webcam (this was purchased by him and received by post a few weeks ago)
      • I positioned this as far away as the cable would allow, but still have a view of me
      • Use of the external webcam was to try and defuse situation and reduce manager's anger
    • Sadly it did not work as he proceeded to demand, with ever increasing levels of forcefulness and aggressiveness combined with dismissiveness and refusal to hear my cries of mercy, to move the external webcam so that it is positioned directly in front of me
      • This occurred three times, everytime that I pleaded with him in trying to defuse the situation, each were ignored and as I relented on each attempt and moved the camera as demanded, even more force and pressure was applied
      • I raised the loudness of my voice in the hopes that someone would come to assist, but no one came
      • Panicking, I mentioned I had 'webcam phobia' during these exchanges being unable to utter the words camera-shyness
    • Once 'he got what he wanted', it was a very brief exchange where he demanded:
      • that I obtain a medical certificate for 'webcam phobia'
      • that he will arrange a meeting with HR to discuss my conduct in this meeting
    • I was in complete shock, traumatised by the experience, felt violated, weak and impotent. My left arm was also trembling
    • A colleague seated next to me asked: "Are you OK?" I responded with "No"
    • Another friendly colleague passed by and asked the same thing. I also responded with "No"
    • That evening, I slept for about 4-5hr until I woke up at 3:30am and began Internet search of the word 'intimidation'. I found websites for:
      • Human Rights Commission
      • WorkSafe Vic
      • Federal Government website on workplace bullying
    • I felt intimidated and bullied, but was still unsure
    -- Late March 2018 --
    In the meeting with HR, my manager and me, when the issue of webcams came up:
    • HR reiterated that it is a reasonable request given that I am remotely managed
    • I acknowledged and understood that it was a reasonable request, but given my camera-shyness that consideration be made. It was very quickly agreed that I could use webcam-equipped meeting rooms
    • Adhoc video calls was still the issue and when I reiterated my camera-shyness and asked for G*Hang0ut voice calls, this was ignored and HR repeated that video calls are now the norm and a manager requesting webcam use is not an unreasonable request
    • I repeated the offer, but was ignored. I felt I was being coerced, not being heard
    • Additionally, the HR person also rushed to conclude the meeting so I, yet again, relented - felt that I had to under duress
    • Near the end of the meeting, I raised the issue with intimidation/bully method used by him
    • HR response was that my manager would understand this, but he did not offer any response. HR reiterated that video calls are necessary and also reasonable request to be made
    • At conclusion of meeting, after my manager left, I informed the HR person that I was not happy with the result, that my concerns were not heard nor actioned
    The issue of using webcam in adhoc G*Hangout video calls remain and I am constantly hounded by him about this where he keeps reiterating the above meeting. My response was that the meeting was rushed, I was not heard and felt like I had to comply due to duress

    My team leaders, colleages or senior managers have never voiced any concerns with not using webcam in adhoc G*Hang0ut calls or even in formal meetings. Sadly, this matter has become one argument of formal disciplinary action against my behaviour.

    Any feedback comments or assistance would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. Rod

    Rod Well-Known Member
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    Get a certificate from your psychologist. If they can't supply one directly, go through your GP with a referral, so your GP can write a medical certificate.

    You have a disability, you are trying to manage your disability, and work is not helping at all. This sounds more like a discrimination issue and is better from a legal viewpoint.

    You can also claim bullying but I wouldn't go down that path until you get your medical certificate.

    Next time ask for a support person when HR call a meeting, and document the meeting so there is a record.

    In the meantime record all occasions you felt bullied by your manager (date, time, participants, witnesses, location, events, reason you felt bullied). But do this at home on your home PC, not a work computer.
     
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