Family Portrait: FWC issues interim stop bullying order for family run business

Workplace bullying can often have a significant impact on workplace morale; however it can become compounded when the bullying occurs in small family run businesses where anti-bullying policies and procedures may not be in place.

This is the circumstance that the Fair Work Commission (FWC) recently considered when determining to make, by consent, interim orders to stop bullying in a family retail tyre business in Ari Kypuros [2017] FWC 3082.

The Applicant (AK) was employed by Mag Wheel & Tyre Pty Ltd (the Company). The Company is owned by Costa Kypuros (CK) and AK’s own father, Theo Kypuros (TK). AK alleged that CK engaged in bullying conduct toward him, including by physically intimidating him, ridiculing his personal achievements and undermining him in front of other employees and customers.

The stop bullying application was made against a history of alleged violence between AK and CK and a business dispute between TK and CK. CCTV footage filed in the FWC showed incidences of physical altercations by AK toward CK. Further, in April 2017 the Victorian Magistrates Court made an Interim Intervention Order against AK which required him not to commit family violence against CK.

Commissioner Wilson had regard to this background and the recent decision of Lynette Bayly [2017] FWC 1886 concerning interim orders in an anti-bullying application (see our blog Stop right now: Employer prevented from proceeding with investigati...). In determining to make the interim orders, Commissioner Wilson was satisfied that the behaviour alleged by AK from CK (and equally by CK from AK) could fall within the definition of workplace bullying.

Significantly, Commissioner Wilson held that in the circumstances, the consideration of the balance of convenience included not only the parties but also other persons in the workplace who either had experienced the negative aspects of the conduct or could be drawn into the dispute in the future.

In this regard, Commissioner Wilson stated that there were concerns that given the conduct between the parties to date, if the interim orders were not made, there was the potential that the conduct would escalate further and that it may have a detrimental effect on the health (either physical or mental) on the parties or others.

Accordingly, by consent, interim orders were made which include that:

  • While at work, AK and CK must not directly communicate with one other by any means or be within 10 metres of each other;

  • While at work, AK, CK and TK must not make comments to each other or other workers which are abusive, offensive to or disparaging of each other and about other workers; and

  • The Company and the Directors must submit to the FWC a proposal for workplace bullying training and the implementation of anti-bullying in the workplace.

The FWC has demonstrated this year that it is prepared to issue interim orders in anti-bullying applications. The interim stop bullying orders made by the FWC highlight the wide range of orders that can be made in such matters (including requiring individuals to stop certain behaviour) and the importance for businesses regardless of size and structure, to adopt and implement anti-bullying policies and procedures.

Shane Koelmeyer is a leading workplace relations lawyer and Director at Workplace Law. Workplace Law is a specialist law firm providing employers with legal advice, training and representation in all aspects of workplace relations, employment-related matters and WH&S.

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