The son of the owner of a now defunct Victorian business has been fined after pleading guilty in court to bullying one of the company’s employees.
Matthew John Sallama fronted Sunshine Magistrates’ Court on 17 April where he pleaded guilty to a single charge under two sections of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Worksafe Victoria said in a statement.
According to the state government safety regulator, Mr Sallama pleaded guilty to breaching sections 144(1) and 21(1) and (2)(a) of the act while working as the manager of his parents’ business, John’s Nuts Operations Pty Ltd, in 2016.
The business subsequently went into liquidation in March 2018, ASIC records show.
According to the regulator, Mr Sallama was found to have used behaviour against the unnamed storeman between 3 June and 28 November in 2016 that included “using language that was profane, belittling, degrading or offensive”, and that he had spoken in “an aggressive, intimidating or abusive manner”.
It said that Mr Sallama also threatened to “deduct e-tag expenses from the storeman’s pay, to ‘burn’ his wages, to dismiss him, and not to pay for his immigration visa”.
The court ordered Mr Sallama to pay a fine of $7,500 in addition to costs of a further $2,000. It takes total penalties relating to the incident to $87,500, after the business itself was convicted and fined $80,000 by the same court over the incident, Worksafe said.
The regulator also noted that John’s Nuts Operations was also convicted and fined $60,000 under separate action for seven return-to-work offences, including for making late payments and not providing suitable post-injury employment to the same employee for work-related tendonitis.
WorkSafe acting executive director of health and safety Adam Watson said that workplace bullying “poses a serious risk to a worker’s mental health”.
“And the effects can have a lifelong impact — not only on the individual being bullied, but their family as well,” he said.
“All employees have the right to go to work without fear of being bullied, harassed or singled-out while on the job, and all employers have a clear responsibility to take care of their workers’ mental and physical health and safety.”
Mr Watson welcomed the court’s verdict.
“WorkSafe will not hesitate to prosecute any employer who fails to take action to stop this abhorrent behaviour in their workplace,” he said.
Worksafe Victoria defines workplace bullying as being behaviour that “is characterised by persistent and repeated negative behaviour directed at an employee that creates a risk to health and safety”.
“Bullying behaviour can take many forms and can include name calling, threats and physical abuse, singling out a worker for different treatment for no good reason, or pointedly excluding someone from social events.”
Late last year, a deputy president of the Fair Work Commission outlined some of the points employers should be aware of in relation to the issue of workplace bullying.
If you are suffering from depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts, or you’re worried about someone else and feel that urgent professional support is needed, contact your local doctor or one of the 24/7 crisis agencies below:
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
beyondblue: 1300 22 4636
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.