Reasonable Management Action Vs. Bullying – Where Is The Line?

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Reasonable Management Action Vs. Bullying – Where Is The Line?

Bullying has become a pressing issue in the employment relations landscape, with the Fair Work Commission (FWC) seeing a significant increase in the amount of bullying applications being made by employees.

Bullying is estimated to cost Australian businesses between $17 billion and $36 billion each year, with the average cost for a single claim falling between $17,000 and $24,000.

Often when employees are being performance managed or having disciplinary action taken against them, they can claim they feel bullied. Yet, bullying does not include reasonable management action taken against an employee if it is carried out in a reasonable manner.

However, the line between what is considered reasonable management action and what is bullying can be difficult to differentiate, with the recent case of Lisa Fsadni v G8 Education highlighting how an employee may misconstrue reasonable management action.

Lisa Fsadni was employed by G8 Education Pty Ltd  as a Group Leader. In September 2014, she lodged an application for an order to stop bullying at work through the FWC. In her application, Fsadni alleged she had experienced continuous bullying since 2013 by Ms Sonal Shah, the Centre Manager and Ms Vanessa Hextall, a member of the management.

Fsadni complained of being belittled in front of parents and staff, issued warnings without justification, a lack of communication from management and harassment regarding her absences and lack of punctuality.

G8 Education responded that they were not guilty of bullying, but rather they were engaging in reasonable management action. This was shown by:

  • fully investigating a grievance lodged by Fsadni against Ms Shah in November 2013
  • issuing Fsadni two written warnings for failing to maintain the portfolios of the children in her care (which was a key requirement of her role)
  • offering a mediation which was refused by Fsadni in November 2014
  • issuing Fsadni with a third and final warning for failing to maintain the portfolios of the children in August 2014
  • providing Fsadni with a number of opportunities to explain and justify her allegations

Fsadni’s application was ultimately dismissed, with the FWC ruling G8 Education had engaged in reasonable management action, and clearly had not bullied their employee.

As an employer, it is important to understand what is considered bullying and what is deemed as reasonable management action.

Reasonable management action includes:

  • setting reasonable performance goals, standards and deadlines
  • rostering and allocating working hours
  • transferring a worker for operational reasons
  • deciding not to select a worker for promotion where a reasonable process has been followed
  • informing a worker of their unsatisfactory work performance
  • informing a worker of their unreasonable or inappropriate behaviour in an objective and confidential way
  • implementing organisational change or restructuring
  • taking disciplinary action including suspension or termination of employment

As G8 Education had undertaken a disciplinary process to provide Fsadni with warnings concerning the requirements of her role, this was deemed to be reasonable management action. Furthermore, they had followed a fair procedure to formally investigate the grievances raised.

Lessons learned

It is important that employers have the correct systems in place, including updated policies and procedures, and undertake formalised disciplinary and grievance processes to address employee issues. This will ensure that in the event of a claim, the employer can establish that they took reasonable management action to defend any accusation of bullying.

Source :

This Article was written by Employsure a Specialist Employment Practice and reprinted by VeriSure. Employsure is a Premier Partner of VeriSure.

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