11 Major Steps To Investigate A Complaint Of Workplace Bullying

July 14, 2022    Employmentlawyers
11 Major Steps To Investigate A Complaint Of Workplace Bullying

Workplace bullying is a big problem nowadays and is not tolerated by companies that have a respectful, safe and inclusive workplace culture. If a volunteer, employee or contractor is found to have bullied their colleagues, it can be considered misconduct or even a criminal offence.


Laws help safeguard people’s rights to ensure a respectful, beautiful and safe workplace. Workplace bullying can often lead to disciplinary action being taken and may also include termination of the accused. In this blog, you will know the important steps to take to investigate workplace bullying.


Workplace Bullying and the Law-


Laws will apply to every workplace no matter the geography, size and industry in which they operate. These laws will protect the employees, volunteers, contractors, visitors and customers.


For instance, in Australia, there is federal legislation that also includes the Safety Act of 2011 and Work Health and the Fair Work Act of 2009. There are specific work health, safety regulators, human rights and anti-discrimination agencies in each state and territory of Australia. These laws apply to all types of workplaces that are there.


Investigating Complaints Of Workplace Bullying In The Workplace-


If you get complaints of bullying in your workplace, you will need to investigate and be subject to the nature of the complaint. The complaint may be fit for a formal determination to make or to take any action regarding what happened.


When there is an investigation regarding workplace bullying, an employer may need to comply with the employer’s policy and also inform the human resources or senior managers.
The steps that you need to take in investigating workplace bullying in your firm are:


1. You Must Take Every Allegation Seriously:


Every employee in your workplace needs to feel heard and protected at work. This is why you need to take all the allegations seriously despite how it sounds. You need to remain objective in this situation and assure the reporter that the problem will be investigated.


Workplace bullying is capable of affecting your entire office if the problem does not stop. It is essential for you to identify the risks of not resolving problems before investigating the allegations.


You need to understand that if bullying indeed took place, will it continue or happen to others? Or will the victim exhibit signs of trouble that may be able to verify the allegations, like reduced productivity and absenteeism?


2. Review The Policies Of Your Company:


Before you investigate a workplace bullying complaint, you must review your organization’s policies. You must know if the allegation matches your definition of bullying and harassment.


Also need to know whether the procedures in your company for handling these sorts of allegations are sufficient for such cases. You must ensure that your company has the methods for handling these complaints.


Your company must know when to start conducting an investigation. Sometimes you may need to change the policies in your company to stay up to date. In such cases, you can go for consensus and authorisation; after that, you can note the edits you make and communicate them to the affected parties before the start of the process.


3. Involve With Unions:


If your workplace is not organised, the victim has all the right to involve the union in this case. After they deliver their complaint to you, ask them if they will file a formal grievance with the union and let them solve this problem.


You can also ask them if they want to involve the organisation with this. Other than this, you can also inform your employees that whatever they choose to decide, they can always approach you for help.


If they do not agree with the outcome of the investigation handled by the union, they can have options to begin a fresh investigation and try again for a better outcome.


4. Be Unbiased And Fair:


Though, as per the workplace bullying law, it is vital to listen to the concerns of the victim, you also need to stay impartial throughout the entire process. Any them must ensure that both parties get the same opportunities to share their part of the story.


You must maintain confidentiality in such circumstances to safeguard the identity of everyone involved. You cannot begin an investigation thinking that one individual is speaking the truth and the other is lying.


This can change the case’s outcome, which is not fair. When you hire a workplace bullying lawyer, you can be ensured that the investigation is more objective.


5. Work Quickly:


When an employer comes to you with a bullying complaint, it is probably not the first time that they have experienced harassment. This is why it is important that you act quickly and properly.


If you take too long, it will provide the bully more time to cause damage to the physical and mental health of the victim. In several cases, it is seen that victims reported continuous harassment, but as the employers did not respond, things got worse for the victim.


6. Interview Relevant People:


As part of the investigation process, all the relevant people in the case must be identified and communicated. This can include interviewing them or inviting a written statement or response regarding the alleged complaint.


In the case of interviews, the respondents, witnesses and complainants will be interviewed separately. The records of such interviews can be documented, and the requests made by witnesses to bring in a support person during the interview will be entertained.


7. Obtain A Number Of Facts:


As a part of the investigation process, you can use reasonable means to acquire different relevant facts. This can also involve interviewing the witnesses and looking at the evidence like emails, camera footage or internet content from social media sites.


During the investigation process, you need to take care of the following things:

  • There are no assumptions made that the respondent committed the conduct, complained or alleged.
  • Confidentiality needs to be observed, and there needs to be less disclosure when you deal with complaints.
  • Any action that is taken needs to be equal to the conduct committed by the individual and found to have breached the company’s policy and engaged in inappropriate conduct.


8. Set Out The Complaints:


Other than setting out the complaints to the respondent in writing, there also needs to be a summary of the allegations that were provided at an interview. The respondent needs to be advised of the potential outcomes of such investigations if the complaints are proven.


Based on the circumstances that include any serious allegations, the respondent and the other parties may be relieved from their duties without in the period when the investigation is undergoing. But you must consider the policy documents or the employment contract before deciding if there are restrictions upon the stand down.


9. Deal With Allegations That Are Not Proven:


If you find that a workplace complaint is not true or unproven, it cannot be workplace bullying and cannot breach the employer’s policy. You should not take any further action toward the respondent in case of a complaint.


In this case, the reason for your decision needs to be explained to both the respondent and the complainant. You cannot take action against anyone unless evidence is secured.


10. Deal With Proven Allegations:


In terms of dealing with such allegations, the possible outcomes can be as follows:

  • Needing an apology
  • Training or counselling
  • Undertakings to decide forms of future behaviour
  • To take strict action against the respondent includes giving the employer a warning, demotion or termination.

Where action can be in the form of termination of the employee, a separate written correspondence needs to be issued to the respondent. This will advise them of the fact that the allegations are proven.


The correspondence must provide explanations or reasons for the substantiated findings. The respondent must be invited to show the reason why they need or need not be terminated from their work due to the circumstances.


You also need to communicate the disciplinary outcome in writing to the respective parties along with the complaint. You need to note that you will not disclose any of the matters due to privacy.


11. Deal With The False Allegations:


Allegations that are false or unproven allegations need to be viewed seriously. If found to be malicious and intentional, strict action must be taken by you, including termination of the employment of the complainant.


Take Proper And Sensible Actions-


One must always exercise caution and common sense by dealing with incidents that concern workplace bullying. You must take proper and sensible actions based on the seriousness and nature of the circumstances.


You must consider the following when deciding on the proper action that needs to be taken:

  • The nature and size of the employer’s operations or business.
  • The budget and available resources.
  • The cost of response and practicability


To display compliance, you must maintain records showing the steps you have taken to prevent and stop workplace bullying. You also need to consider and take steps to promote safety in the workplace.


Why is it Important to Prevent Workplace Bullying?


If you want your employees to feel safe, welcomed and happy when they come to work, you must prevent workplace bullying. You want the sight of your workplace to make your employees smile and want them to enjoy time with their coworkers.


If you think of a perfect world, everyone should get along perfectly, and there will never be any problems within your team. But this is not always the case; if you think bullying only exists in the playground, you are wrong.


There can be harassment and bullying at workplaces, and each of them can have various forms. Workplace bullying is mostly considered to be an instance when someone uses their powers or intimidates others to hurt people.


Bullying May or May Not Be Intentional-


Sometimes, you may find that bullying may not be intentional, but in most cases, it is. This is the reason why you must take a stand against workplace bullying and take steps to prevent bullying in your company.


Workplace bullying will negatively affect the emotional, mental and physical health of the victim. It can also lead to serious situations such as depression, anxiety and also headaches in the victim.


How Can Workplace Bullying Affect Your Company?


As an employer, the cost of bullying can come to you as lawsuits if you ignore such behaviours of bullying. There can be serious effects that can go deep and eventually hurt your business.


Bullying can affect your workplace in the following ways:

# The Bullied Employees May Not Come To Work:


If there are bullies in an office or workspace who have been cruel to others, the targeted employee will think that it will be easier to stay at home. They may call in sick or provide excuses or reasons not to go to work, while the true reason is that they are unhappy and avoid the bully.


# Your Business Can Be A Victim Of High Employee Turnover:


People do not intend to stay somewhere where they do not feel welcomed or appreciated. If they feel uncomfortable in a workplace, they might decide to leave the place.


If your employee leaves due to workplace bullying, you need to hire and train newer employees. This can be a costly affair, and this will lead to your workplace becoming unstable when new people continue to arrive.


Furthermore, if the new employees notice that their workspace is hostile, they might not want to work or interact with other people. All these will lead to a higher employee turnover and result in an unhappy workplace.


# Your Company’s Reputation Will Be Affected:


You cannot underestimate the power of your former employees. People who are bullied in your workplace can let their friends and family know that it will eventually pass to other people.


If people come to know that workers are not treated properly in your company, your reputation will suffer. There will be bad reviews online against your company, which will lower your business’s position in the market.


Contact Employment Lawyers Perth-


If you feel that there are problems in your workplace and it has exceeded your imagination, you need help. If workplace bullying and other problems have resulted in you going through legal proceedings in court, you can contact Employment Lawyers Perth for help.


This firm can provide you with the best lawyers who can help you fight against legal proceedings in court. You can also contact these lawyers to help you if you feel that you have been wrongly terminated.

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