Pink Shirt Day: Take a Stand Against Workplace Bullying and Harassment

May 16th, 2024 - Lucy Fisher

“On Wednesdays, we wear pink” may be best known as an iconic quote from Mean Girls, but wearing pink has become an international icon to support the anti-bullying and harassment movement. In Aotearoa, we are celebrating Pink Shirt Day this Friday, May 17th.

At Buckettlaw we encourage both employers and employees to get involved and take this opportunity to not only have a bit of fun but also take a deeper look into the workplace culture and how workplaces can foster a positive culture, free from bullying and harassment.

Bullying and harassment in the workplace is too often pushed aside and ignored. The stigma attached to the making of a complaint in the workplace that ‘you are the problem child’ needs to be challenged and changed, and employers need to provide the correct resources and procedures to do this. Don’t be the workplace that hides away and ignores.

When a bullying and harassment complaint is made it should be treated as serious and specific examples and dates should be provided to the employer to allow it to fully explore and consider the matters. When an employee first raises a concern of Bullying and Harassment it is important that the complaint is detailed to allow the respondent the ability to respond. Too often bullying and harassment complaints cannot be substantiated due to a lack of detail.

On the other hand, employers have a responsibility to the respondent to ensure a fair and thorough process. This should include triaging a bullying and harassment complaint in the first instance. In most cases, if the employer handles a complaint through a proper process, both the complainant and respondent will be treated fairly, and there will be little delay in the process.

It is also crucial for employers to determine how to best approach the complaint and that they follow their policies and procedures. Recently in the Employment Court,the Court determined that an employee was unjustifiably disadvantaged as the employer, Department of Corrections, failed to follow its policies and procedures in relation to a bullying and harassment complaint that the employee made, and the Employment Court awarded compensation for hurt and humiliation.

Bullying and harassment can be in many different forms, and often it isn’t until the concerns are raised that people begin to understand that the behaviour isn’t appropriate for the work environment. It is not always physical or direct behaviour that can amount to bullying and harassment. Examples such as intentionally ignoring, constant criticism or offensive sanctions are often overlooked.

Bullying and harassment is considered a workplace hazard, and employers are responsible for creating and fostering a healthy and safe work environment. WorkSafe recently concluded a review of work-related suicide and the workplace factors that contributed. Within that report bullying and harassment was a key work-place stressor that was identified and is a psychological hazard.

Employers have an ability to address workplace bullying and harassment and should be taking proactive preventive steps. Employee’s also have a proactive responsibility to report and raise concerns with its employer if they are aware of bullying and harassment in the workplace. Don’t wait until it is too late.

When you raise concerns of bullying and harassment and your employer does not take reasonable and practical steps to address your concerns, this could be through an informal restorative process or a formal investigation process, the failure to take reasonable practical steps is a disadvantage in your employment and in most cases a disadvantage personal grievance arises.

It can be difficult to stay at work when you have raised concerns and there has been no reasonable action from your employer, however it is best not to resign and instead put your employer on notice of your personal grievance. Resigning may seem like the best option to get out, but it leaves an employer with little to zero accountability.

While we understand that bullying and harassment processes are stressful for all parties, these types of situations won’t just go away and concerns need to be raised so that employers can take reasonable steps to address the behaviour and create a safe and healthy work environment.

If you are concerned about raising bullying and harassment concerns,Buckettlaw can assist in drafting a complaint or raising a personal grievance if your employer is not meeting its obligations and duties of care towards you.

 Kōrero Mai, Kōrero Atu, Mauri Tū, Mauri Ora – Speak Up, Stand Together, Stop Bullying!

Note: BuckettLaw takes no responsibility for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of our articles. Any views expressed or comments made in an article are the writers option only. The content in our articles does not constitute legal advice. If you need legal or expert advice you should obtain specific advice about your case or matter from a professional. For legal advice based on your individual situation please contact us to speak with one of our expert lawyers.

Enjoy a complimentary 15-minute phone call as a first-time offer.

Lucy Fisher

Lucy holds a Bachelor of Laws degree from Otago University.  

Her employment law expertise is complemented by her background in media and communications, equipping her to navigate the complex dynamics between employees and employers effectively.

Lucy provides clear, strategic advice and has a commitment to assisting clients to achieve positive outcomes. Lucy has established herself as a burgeoning expert in employment law, honing her skills in mediation and negotiation to effectively resolve disputes.  

Outside of work Lucy enjoys cooking, travelling and socialising with friends.

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