A BALLARAT radio station was recently convicted and fined $50,000 for failing to provide a safe workplace, after one of its employees was found guilty of workplace bullying
A BALLARAT radio station was recently convicted and fined $50,000 for failing to provide a safe workplace, after one of its employees was found guilty of workplace bullying.
In what is understood to be an Australian first, Radio Ballarat, which owns radio stations 3BA and Power FM, was convicted in relation to verbal harassment of staff by a colleague. The company pleaded guilty to a series of incidents between February 2000 and October last year.
The company was convicted and fined $25,000 for failing to provide a safe workplace, and $25,000 for failing to provide instruction, training and supervision in relation to bullying. It was also ordered to pay costs of $5,000.
Ballarat Magistrate Bernard Coburn heard how the radio station had allowed one of its announcers, Reginald Mowat, 34, to verbally and physically abuse staff until just before his sacking in November last year (see Human Resources, issue 62 for details).
Magistrate Coburn found the company had no system for complaints to be made and dealt with and should have stopped the bullying when they became aware of it. He said the company was prepared to retain Mowat with no regard to the consequences for other staff.
Mowat appeared in the Ballarat Magistrates Court on 22 July in relation to OHS charges over his bullying behaviour. He was fined $10,000 and ordered to pay costs of $1,700.
Prosecutor Garry Livermore said Radio Ballarat had “failed abysmally” to look after its employees during the course of the abuse, in that complaints went “virtually unheeded” by the company.
The decision set a new benchmark for acceptable health and safety standards in the workplace, according to WorkSafe Victoria’s executive director, John Merritt.
“The court has confirmed that psychological bullying is as unacceptable as physical bullying.
“The victims in this case have been traumatised and exposed to repeated verbal violence. The court has endorsed the view that verbal bullying is not acceptable and that there are consequences for failing to manage it.”
He warned employers not to ignore what’s going on in their workplace, and recommended they set up a system for training people and addressing bullying where it occurs.
“Complaints and incident reports must be acted on. There needs to be an awareness of the effects of repeated verbal abuse or offensive language, such as lowered morale, reduced productivity and staff turnover,” he said.