Bullying, harassment and discrimination must be investigated and the person affected must be supported by the employer.
Two aspects of bullying, harassment and discrimination
There are two aspects that need to be considered in relation to possible instances of bullying, harassment and discrimination. This means the process needs to have two parallel streams focusing on each of the people involved:
- the person who has been bullied, harassed, or discriminated against.
- the person who has been complained about.
The person who has been bullied, harassed, or discriminated against:
- If you’ve laid a complaint about bullying, harassment, or discrimination, your manager must make sure that you’re supported throughout the process.
- If the behaviour is serious, and your job means you have to come into contact with the bully, your boss must make sure that you are protected. If a decision has been made to suspend the bully while an investigation is done, this will help to protect you. If the behaviour is not considered serious enough to suspend the person, then it may be appropriate to move the person to another department during the investigation. You (as the person who has complained) shouldn’t be the one moved as it could look as if you’re being punished for speaking out.
- Given the sensitive nature of these types of complaints, confidentiality during the investigation and afterwards is very important.
- The manager deciding what action to take should take into consideration what you want to happen.
- The manager should make sure that the you are kept informed of what stage the investigation is at.
The person complained about
The investigation into a complaint will focus on the person being complained about. At the end of the investigation, disciplinary action for misconduct or serious misconduct may be taken. The action taken will depend on the circumstances of the situation and the person. Instances of serious misconduct could result in the person’s dismissal without notice. This person’s privacy and confidentiality should also be protected.
If you see or hear bullying, harassment or discrimination happening to someone at your workplace, you should report it.
You can check with the person the behaviour was directed at, or with other people who were there if necessary, to make sure you heard or saw correctly.
If you do nothing, this type of behaviour could become, or remain the culture of the workplace.
If an investigation takes place and finds that the bullying, harassment or discrimination did not happen; the person making the original complaint could be investigated themselves, for misconduct.
Other options for dealing with bullying, harassment, or discrimination
Sometimes behaviour which is bullying or harassment, may also be civil harassment covered by the Harassment Act 1997 and the victim could apply for a restraining order.
If behaviour includes violence, is criminal harassment or is another criminal offence, it should be reported to the New Zealand Police.
Employees who feel bullied, harassed or discriminated against
Dealing with it yourself
You might feel more comfortable dealing with an issue yourself. This will probably depend on the situation and who else is involved. Dealing with it yourself might include:
- Writing to the person
- Speaking to the person in private, possibly with a support person present.
Do this by writing to the person, or by speaking to the person in private, perhaps with a support person present. You should keep a record in case the behaviour happens again.
Dealing with it informally
In this situation, a manager would get the details of what happened from you. Then try to resolve the matter informally by having a word with the person, telling them their behaviour was inappropriate, and asking them not to do it again.
The manager needs to be clear on what actually had happened, otherwise a proper investigation has to be carried out in order to be fair.
If the behaviour continues, you may choose to make a formal complaint.
Making a formal complaint
- You should find out if there are any relevant workplace policies or processes for reporting issues. There may be trained people in your workplace who know how to deal with problems carefully.
- If there are no relevant policies or processes, you should still let your boss know as soon as possible. It’s best to put what happened in writing so everyone is clear about how you see the incident/s. Including dates and what was said, seen, done etc.
- If you have an ideal outcome in your mind, you can tell your manager. They will consider your views, but they may decide a different course of action is more appropriate.
- Your manager should tell you:
- whether the action was decided to be bullying, harassment or discrimination.
- whether action will be taken.
- when action has been taken, so that you know that the matter has been dealt with.
If you’re not comfortable talking to your manager, you could go to another manager, HR person, health and safety representative, union, or lawyer.
Investigating a complaint
- If you make a complaint about another employee because you’ve been bullied, discriminated against or sexually or racially harassed, your boss has to conduct a full investigation of all the facts.
After the investigation
If after the investigation your boss decides that the bullying, harassing or discriminating behaviour did happen, they:
- may take disciplinary action against the bully.
- should continue to support the you as appropriate.
- should consider whether workplace policies cover inappropriate behaviours.
- should try to stop these behaviours from happening again.