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January 2020

Company sole director and owner found to have engaged in bullying

Company sole director and owner found to have engaged in bullying

WorkSafe Victoria v Monjon (Australia) Pty Ltd (2019)

The Case

Monjon (Australia) Pty Ltd (Monjon) was a security services company that provided services throughout Victoria. It was managed by John Bernard Moncrieff, who was a sole director and owner the company, as well as Managing Director and the hands-on manager of the business.

From April 2015 to August 2016, Moncrieff was involved in multiple instances of bullying behaviour towards employees, including:

  • inappropriate physical contact, such as pushing an employee away or poking an employee in the ear;
  • verbal abuse, such as raising his voice, using language that was profane, belittling, degrading, offensive, discriminatory and racist, and speaking in an aggressive, intimidating or abusive manner;
  • encouraging employees with managerial roles to speak to other employees in an aggressive or intimidating manner;
  • threatening to withhold wages or that an employee would lose his security licence if he did not go to work;
  • making sexually inappropriate comments about female employees; and
  • saying that he could “make things go away” because he was wealthy and had connections.

Between December 2015 and February 2016, Monjon’s workplace in Cheltenham was inspected by WorkSafe inspectors and the inspectors issued the company an improvement notice for its failure to implement an existing workplace bullying policy.

The bullying behaviour continued after the inspection in February 2016.

Judgment

Monjon entered a guilty plea, and the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court fined the company $97,000 for failing to comply with its duty under sections 21(1) and (2)(a) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic). The Melbourne Magistrates’ Court found that the workplace bullying, and failure to implement the bullying policy, exposed employees to risks to their health and safety, including stress, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

It was reasonably practicable for Monjon to eliminate or reduce the risk to health and safety by regulating Moncrieff’s behaviour and implementing the bullying policy.

As Managing Director of the company, the offending was also attributable to Moncrieff in that he engaged in the behaviour, knew or ought reasonably to have known of the bullying policy, and failed to cease his own bullying behaviour and implement the bullying policy. He was personally fined $19,250.

Lessons

Employers need to ensure that they not only have a bullying policy at the workplace but also implement the policy to eliminate or reduce the risk to the health and safety of workers.

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