Amie Mac v Bank of Queensland Limited; Michelle Locke; Matthew Thompson; Stacey Hester; Christine Van Den Heuvel; Jane Newman. [2015] FWC 774 (AB2014/1324). VICE PRESIDENT HATCHER

 

This matter relates to the applicant claiming that she was bullied by a number of persons at the BOQ as a consequence of negative “performance reviews”, which identified shortcomings:

 

  • Time management;
  • Work output;
  • Spending appropriate amounts of time on matters;
  • General advising;
  • Workload;
  • Assisting others when they were busy;
  • Regularly and correctly completing St Andrew’s timesheets;
  • Decision making in progressing matters;
  • Service levels not being met on contract reviews; and
  • Allocation of general advice work from other Senior Corporate Solicitors.

 

At the time of the claim, the applicant was on leave due to mental health issues (related to the alleged bullying), citing:

 

“I recall when I first received the PIP document that I had a physical reaction to it. I was shaking and my face became very flushed. I felt ill. I was completely surprised by the document. I did not understand it. I thought why do I have to do this. I had not heard of the PIP process before. I felt nervous and anxious. I did not know why I was being subjected to this process. I noted on the last page of the document that it says the process could lead to the termination of my employment. I was worried what I would do if I did not have a job. I felt powerless as if there was nothing I could do about it. I felt like crying but could not because I work in an open plan environment.”

 

The VP considered “…that her belief that she has been bullied at work was reasonable in the sense that it has something tangible to support it and is not entirely irrational, absurd or ridiculous”.

 

However, the DP found:

 

“My overall conclusion is that the decision to place Ms Mac on a PIP, and the manner in which the PIP process was implemented, was not unreasonable. Prior to the decision to place Mr Mac on a PIP being made, shortcomings in her performance had been identified by Ms Mac’s managers over a considerable period of time.

 

“During a longueur* in the hearing, I attempted to draw up a list of the features at least some of which one might expect to find in a course of repeated unreasonable behaviour that constituted bullying at work. My list included the following: intimidation, coercion, threats, humiliation, shouting, sarcasm, victimisation, terrorising, singling-out, malicious pranks, physical abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, belittling, bad faith, harassment, conspiracy to harm, ganging-up, isolation, freezing-out, ostracism, innuendo, rumour-mongering, disrespect, mobbing, mocking, victim-blaming and discrimination”.

 

*Longueur, noun. A tedious passage in a book, piece of music, etc. A tedious period of time. (PS: 10 points to anybody who knew this already).

 

Commentary

 

Despite the FWC finding that the applicant had a genuine belief that she was being bullied (as evidenced, no doubt, by the medical reports), the VP in a moment of “longuer” found that the performance improvement plans that were properly implemented did no constitute bullying, and the application for an anti-bullying order was dismissed.

Greg Reiffel Industrial Relations & Human Resources Consulting has been providing the following services to businesses for over 30 years:

 

  • General HR and IR advisory service.
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