We recently published an article discussing the workplace bullying culture within high profile organisations in New Zealand and provided information to employers on how best to protect themselves from breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.
This week, we focus on the bullying complaint process for both the complainant (the person making an allegation of workplace bullying) and the person who has been accused of bullying a colleague in the workplace.
If you are being bullied and harassed in your workplace; there are options available for you. There is a variety of legislation that is designed to protect employees from bullying and harassment:
- The Employment Relations Act 2000;
- Health and Safety at Work Act 2015; and
- In some cases, the Human Rights Act 1995.
If you need help addressing your concerns, the first step is to raise the issues with your employer. If you do not feel comfortable doing this on your own, we can assist with this process. Your employer must take your concerns seriously and investigate these issues. We can prompt your employer to commence an independent investigation into your complaint, and we can guide and support you through this process. We can also request the implementation of other practical methods of addressing and resolving your complaint. Everyone deserves to be safe in their workplace.
If these mechanisms are unsuccessful in resolving your complaint, there are formal processes available under the Employment Relations Act 2000, such as attending mediation, and/or raising a personal grievance for:
- Sexual and/or racial harassment;
- An unjustifiable action which has caused you disadvantage in the workplace;
- An unjustified constructive dismissal, if you have resigned as a result of your employers’ failures to adequately address your bullying complaints (see next week’s article for more information);
- An unjustified dismissal, if you have been dismissed as a result of your complaints.
THE PERSON ACCUSED OF BULLYING
In our previous article, we provided the definition for workplace bullying and listed examples of situations and acts that do not constitute “bullying”. Unfortunately, the incorrect use of the term bullying often results in unfair and unfounded allegations of bullying. As employment lawyers, we are frequently required to represent those accused of bullying. We assist them throughout the investigation process.
If someone accuses you of bullying, it is important that you receive support during this stressful time. It is easy to feel victimised and to believe that there are no options available for you, but you must remember these key points:
- You are entitled to a support person or representative at any meeting discussing the complaints. Having sound advice from the early stages of the complaint often helps resolve matters faster;
- Your employer must act as a fair and reasonable employer throughout the complaints process;
- Your employer has equal obligations to both you and the complainant; and
- Your employer must make a decision as to whether, on the balance of probabilities, the complaints are substantiated.
If you have been treated unfairly by your employer as a result of the investigation or disciplinary process, you may be entitled to remedies. Please contact us to discuss this further and sign up to our newsletter to receive an update when the next employment law article goes live.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
If you are an employee, who believes they are being bullied or has been accused of bullying, we understand this can be a very stressful time. Contact us and we will assist you through the process and ensure your legal rights are -protected.
For more information on these matters, or to discuss a situation in your workplace, please talk to our employment expert Caroline Rieger on 04 495 8908, to discuss your options and how we can achieve the best outcome for you.