In a landmark decision the Federal Court of Australia awarded a former employee $5.2 million in damages, in part due to breaches of the general protections provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (‘the Act’). The applicant brought a claim against his employer company and the company CEO who terminated his employment (‘the respondents’). In the proceedings the applicant argued that his employment was terminated because he made multiple complaints about bullying, which was his ‘workplace right’ within the meaning of the Act. Section 340 of the Act prohibits adverse action being taken against a person who has exercised a workplace right. The Court found that the applicant did have a ‘workplace right’ within the meaning of the Act to make the complaints, noting the company’s “Open Door Policy” and “Workplace Bullying Policy” included as part of the applicant’s employment contract. The Court found that the respondent’s failure to investigate the bullying allegations before terminating the employee amounted to adverse action, and therefore contravened the Act. Overall, the decision serves as a reminder of the importance of employers adequately investigating internal complaints and complying with their legal obligations in the process of termination. Contact M+E for more information about obligations arising under the Act.


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