For Australia’s Fair Work Commission (FWC), unfriending someone on Facebook and not saying good morning could count as bullying in the workplace.
In a ruling, the commission favored Rachael Roberts, a real estate agent working at Tasmania-based real estate firm VIEW Launceston, when she alleged she had been bullied by Lisa Bird, the agency’s sales administrator and the wife of its principal.
The complainant cited nearly 20 run-ins from November 2013 to January 2015, many of which were with Mrs. Bird.
Roberts complained to the agency principal James Bird about not receiving a fair representation of her properties displayed in the agency’s front window. In a meeting, Bird’s wife called her a “naughty little school girl running to the teacher,” something the tribunal deemed “provocative and disobliging.”
Later that day, Roberts found that Mrs. Bird deleted her as a Facebook friend – an act that reflected a “lack of emotional maturity” and “indicative of unreasonable behavior,” according to the tribunal. In another incident, Mrs. Bird did not acknowledge Roberts in the morning and excluded her in photocopying and printing delivery to employees.
Roberts was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, receiving medical and psychological treatment. Commission deputy president Nicole Wells found the employer’s behavior to be a risk to employee health and safety.
FWC upheld 18 of the complainant's alleged incidents and issued an order to stop the bullying. A conference will be held between Roberts and her employer to discuss anti-bullying measures will be put in place.
The tribunal, however, struck down Roberts’s allegations that she was barred from adjusting the temperature setting on the air conditioner when other employees were not, and that unlike others she was required to wear an ill-fitting uniform at work.
Roberts’ case was decided under the bullying provisions of the Fair Work Act, which allows the tribunal to order a stop to workplace bullying but is criticized for the lack of ability to determine and award compensation.
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