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Bullying & HarassmentSeptember 26, 2014
Did you know that zinc not only protects us from sunburn but in actual fact the mineral itself is known as “The Great Protector”? It protects iron and steel from corrosion. If we didn’t have zinc we would live in a very rusty world. A zinc smelting company in Hobart called Nyrstar has been subject to numerous bullying investigations that have ultimately lead the company to reshape their staffing unit as a whole.
The case came to the surface when a group of staff accused their team leader of bullying. An investigation was made and it was apparent that the team leader was conducting “reasonable management actions” but it just so happens during the investigation the blame was turned onto ‘the burn-out crew’. A particular long standing group of employees who had a reputation of wearing down their leaders and behaving poorly.
Blame was laid on two employees, Cannan and Fuller, who had been employed with Nyrstar for 18 years. They were sacked without notice for serious misconduct as they had harassed and bullied their superiors and there were a number incidences of inappropriate conduct during the duration of their employment.
With no signs of remorse Cannan and Fuller filed for unfair dismissal, their defence was that Nyrstar had failed to provide their employees with ‘procedural fairness and important consideration’. Nyrstar did not follow correct disciplinary procedures nor a satisfactory termination procedure.
The men had given 18 years of service and had family-dependent responsibilities, and therefore a summary dismissal was deemed harsh. Nyrstar had not given the men any formal discipline for their ‘bullying nature’ at any time during their 18 year employment. They therefore could testify that their dismissal was not serious misconduct because the same behaviour was not condemned in the years previously.
Nyrstar and their leadership had transparent performance reviews, did not conduct themselves satisfactorily, did not follow correct disciplinary procedures and this resulted in a work environment where there was little respect on both sides of the employment hierarchy. It goes to show that businesses cannot operate without robust and just processes. Employers need to understand that employment relations frequently changes and adaptation to new laws and procedures is inevitable.
Both men were reinstated, and ‘the burn-out crew’ have been transferred to other parts of the plant. The zinc smelting company now has processes to ensure “great protectors” instead of poor leadership.
If you would like to ensure that you have up to date policies and procedures in place call Employsure today on 1300 651 415. We can help you to implement disciplinary procedures which ensure that you follow a fair and procedural employment process so employment matters do not fester and take on an undesirable shape.
*Information sourced via Workplace Express and The Australian Atlas of Minerals website.