Employment Law, Oddstuff

Good and bad news

Two unrelated news items grabbed my attention this week. The first one is from Australia, where, following the suicide of a cafe worker after months and months of bullying, parliament in Victoria will introduce new anti-bullying laws, making bullying a criminal offence similar to stalking:

http://www.theage.com.au/small-business/brodies-suicide-prompts-law-on-bullying-20110405-1czub.html

This is a quite interesting development because so far, the workplace has not been influenced by any criminal legislation, at least not specifically. Sure, fraud, theft and breaches of health&safety can all lead to criminal charges, but based on general provisions. Fraud and theft are offences irrespective where you commit them, and the area of health & safety is too wide and too specialised to be left to the criminal legislation alone, so that all makes sense. But is bullying really that special that it now requires amending the Crimes Act? Arent typical bullying behaviours, in its extreme form, not already covered by provisions such as intimidation, duress, assault, threats, and arguably even covered under the health & safety legislation (through the duty of the employer to keep his employees safe, which includes safe from undue stress from co-workers?).

But it seems to me that the matter has become far too emotional for these kinds of arguments. Trust me, once that legislation is passed, other states will follow.

The other news item is more positive. The appellate court in Illinois held that Wal-Marts decision to fire an employee who abused a gay co-worker (“God does not accept gays”) to be justified:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/06/walmart-firing-anti-gay-worker_n_845716.html

That despite the employee arguing that she was discriminated against because of her religious beliefs (which included hatred against gay people). The court argued, and absolutely correctly, that the employee had breached company policy, especially Wal-Marts own harassment policy.

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www.laborsouth.blogspot.com