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Bullying and harassment – Goodes’ retirement takes the mark

Bullying & HarassmentSeptember 22, 2015

Bullying and harassment – Goodes’ retirement takes the mark (Last Updated On: September 22, 2015)

Adam Goodes is a true role model and an icon of AFL football. He was a Sydney Swan for his entire adult life and not many footballers can be praised for a career like his – two Brownlow medals, two AFL Premierships and the title of Australian of the year.

There are mixed emotions over his retirement, which was announced as a result of the Swans final game of the season played on Saturday. Many in the football community are honouring his outstanding career, but for others, there is a damp realisation that perhaps there is a more sinister reason for his announcement.

Is the harsh reality of his retirement, which will always be remembered by his last season, a result of bullying and harassment within his workplace?

As was widely broadcast throughout his season, Goodes was subject to repeated and unreasonable booing and nasty behaviour while on the field. It was, loud, obvious and very much in the public eye. Goodes, being employed to play football, should have been protected as an employee and provided a safe environment.

From a workplace perspective, should this be a call for stadiums, nationwide, to reassess the associated risks imposed on players. Do tougher bullying and harassment policies need to be included in membership terms and conditions, as well as into the purchasing of individual tickets? And, if there is a breach in these reassessed conditions, could memberships be stripped and/or  spectators be asked to vacate the stadium?

Every employee has the right to go to work and be protected. It is the duty of an employer to provide a safe environment in which to work. The football ground was Goodes’ workplace but after many months of public bullying, harassment and humiliation it has been far from safe. Psychological harm imposed on employees whilst at work should be taken very seriously. This psychological harm was highlighted when Goodes took leave in round 18 due to the stresses associated with his treatment.

According to Brodie’s Law, in Victoria (where Australian Football League originated) it is illegal to bully and harass somebody while they are at work. The law was introduced in 2011 after a 19-year-old girl took her own life as a result of workplace bullying. If found guilty of Brodie’s Law there is a 10 year jail sentence.

Rocco Perrotta the president of the SA Law Society said perhaps if Goodes had been physically assaulted maybe it would have been dealt with differently. Perrotta said psychological harm can be as serious and debilitating as a physical injury. He pointed out that in Europe, some of the biggest soccer clubs have been forced to play their home games in empty stadiums due to the proven physical and psychological danger the clubs’ fans can pose.

If you are an employer and witness bullying, you are responsible for managing, disciplining and stopping this behaviour. Remember the duty of an employer is to provide a safe workplace. If you fail to do so, you are breaching The Fair Work Act.

If you would like to implement a bullying and harassment policy into your workplace, or if you would like to discuss any bullying or harassment issue, which you are experiencing, contact Employsure on 1300 651 415. Employsure provides immediate support for Australian employers to ensure you are keeping your workplaces fair and safe.

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