Appropriate handling of a bullying and harassment complaint
An employee applied for MPC review as they were dissatisfied with their agency’s handling of their bullying and harassment complaint against a manager.
The employee complained that the manager had subjected them to bullying and harassing behaviour such as:
aggressive behaviour and feedback
harsh, rude and abrupt comments
unfair scrutiny and targeting behaviour
inappropriate comments in a coaching session
removal from a project role.
The employee made a complaint to the agency under the agency’s bullying and harassment policy. The agency appointed an independent investigator to conduct a preliminary assessment of the complaint. The report following the preliminary assessment concluded there was insufficient evidence to substantiate the complaint. As such, the agency decided to take no further action on the complaint.
On review, the employee raised the following concerns:
the investigator did not interview all appropriate witnesses
the investigator did not formally interview witnesses, only spoke to them informally
the agency took into account irrelevant information about the complainant
some of the investigator’s conclusions were factually incorrect.
In our view, the investigator acted reasonably and appropriately in conducting the preliminary assessment. We noted that preliminary assessments can be conducted less formally than workplace investigations, including by an investigator speaking to witnesses less formally than via a structured formal interview.
We considered all of the evidence gathered by the investigator, and in our view, the behaviour individually and as a whole, did not amount to bullying or unreasonable behaviour. It appeared the behaviour engaged in by the manager was reasonable management action in the circumstances.
We concluded the agency had complied with their bullying and harassment policy, had conducted a fair assessment of the complaint, and there was insufficient evidence to warrant any further action. We therefore recommended the agency confirm the decision not to take further action on the complaint.