Employers in Victoria should review their bullying and harassment policies and processes following the passing of The Crimes Amendment (Bullying) Bill 2011 – also known as Brodies’ Law, according to law firm Norton Rose.
Employers should also provide refresher training to staff on bullying and appropriate workplace behavior and ensure that there are appropriate procedures in place to deal with bullying complaints, said Norton Rose partners Sarah Ralph and Mike Hammond.
The amendments brought in with the passing of the Bill are significant because they “extend the circumstances of stalking to include, what we euphemistically and often confusingly term, ‘bullying’,” said Ralph and Hammond in a legal update on the issue.
The amendments follow the bullying case of Brodie Panlock, an employee of Café Vamp, who committed suicide after being subjected to sustained and serious workplace bullying.
The owner of the café, its manager and two employees pleaded guilty to and were convicted under Victoria’s Occupational Health & Safety Act 2004 and fined a total of $335,000.
“At the time there was a public outcry that imprisonment was not a penalty that could have been ordered by the Court for the offences with which the men were charged,” said Ralph and Hammond.
“Significantly, under the Crimes Act a person guilty of stalking, now including ‘bullying’, is punishable by a maximum term of 10 years imprisonment.”
The Brodie amendments broaden the type of conduct which can now be considered to be stalking under the Crimes Act to: making threats to a victim; using abusive or offensive words to or in the presence of a victim; performing abusive or offensive acts in the presence of a victim, and directing abusive or offensive acts towards a victim.
“While the Brodie law amendments do not only or specifically relate to workplaces, as the Brodie case itself so tragically demonstrated, bullying behaviour can and does occur at work and therefore the amendments apply to workplace behaviour and to employers who are responsible for workplace behavioural standards,” said Ralph and Hammond.