Employer must pay more than $20,000 to bullying victim
A Dunedin woman has been awarded $20,000 and three months’ pay after being bullied in her workplace.
Jessica Williams, who worked for AWF Ltd at Select Recruitment, was bullied by her manager and then unjustifiably dismissed, a decision by Employment Relations Authority member Peter van Keulen has found.
A personal grievance was raised by Williams last year.
AWF allowed her to work from home while the complaint was investigated.
The investigation eventually proved she had been bullied by her manager, but that AWF had responded appropriately, van Keulen wrote.
In an attempt to resolve the issues between Williams and the manager, AWF devised a return to work plan which included Williams still working under the manager who had bullied her.
They hoped the two could “draw a line in the sand”.
However, when Williams expressed concerns about that plan, AWF’s response was to place her on leave without pay and suggest she returned all AWF property to the office.
“This was a clear statement for Ms Williams that the only option was to return to the office and work with [the manager who bullied her] or she would have to stay at home and not be paid, and this was not negotiable not even in a mediation,” van Keulen said.
Williams raised another personal grievance for unjustified dismissal, a complaint that AWF denied, claiming it responded appropriately to alleged bullying once it was raised.
AWF also said it did not dismiss Williams, but rather she was on leave without pay as she chose not to accept the return to work plan.
Van Keulen found that, along with the bullying, unjustified dismissal had occurred as AWF failed to provide suitable terms for her to return to work.
He also wrote that Williams had tolerated bullying behaviour from her manager for months, trying to accommodate their behaviour and hoping she could change it
“When she could not do any more and the behaviour continued, she raised it with the appropriate managers, expecting them to intervene.”
When general manager Donna Lynch intervened, “matters were turned on their head with [the manager] accusing Ms Williams of being the problem because of her work ability and lack of engagement in the commercial desk”.
Williams’ father Bryan Williams told van Keulen that his daughter had felt isolated, under-appreciated, embarrassed and undermined as a result.
She was hurt, felt defeated by it, and was reduced to tears at times, he said.
Her confidence and self-esteem were also “eroded”.
Van Keulen wrote that he had no difficulty in ruling that AWF pay William $20,000 in compensation for the physical and mental toll she experienced, as well three months’ ordinary time remuneration to make up for being placed on leave without pay.
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