Corporate Giant Accused of Systemic Workplace Bullying and Harassment

by Sonia Hickey
DP World

Another corporate global giant has been caught out covering up systemic bullying, assault and harassment within its Australian workplace. 

DP World, which operates ports in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Freemantle has been publicly called out by a number of its employees who claim the company is unwilling to stamp out its toxic workplace culture. It’s also claimed the company actively protects perpetrators and vilifies victims.

Whistleblowers say they have been given 24-hour body guards as a result of being threatened by other employees, and are fearful for their safety.

Five dock workers have been paid out more than $3 million after being assaulted and harassed. 

Intimidation, assault, and retaliation 

The claims about the company’s poor company culture include that employees who report bullying are given less desirable jobs and hours, and are threatened, intimidated and ostracised. 

One employee claims he had his shoes urinated in, while another says he had his shoes defecated in. 

A female employee says that after she agreed to be a witness for another employee who made claims of bullying and sexual harassment, she was physically assaulted. She also says that male employees would take their penises out of their pants and rub them all over equipment she had to use. 

Workers say that DP World did initially try to change the workplace culture but many perpetrators are protected by the Maritime Workers Union. As a result, these employees would  stick together, and slow down their rate of work to negatively affect productivity. 

Several settlements through WorkSafe 

It’s been reported that at least three bullying cases involving former DP World stevedores have been settled by WorkSafe – the Victorian Government workplace health and safety authority – since December 2020, for amounts of $740,000, $700,000 and $200,000.

A former employee who lost his bullying case against DP World in a Victorian County Court last year is now appealing the decision in the Supreme Court. He has been fighting for compensation as a result of alleged bullying and harassment since 2014. Unlike others, he has not been offered a lump sum payment and is trying to support his family, living on a disability pension. 

In a statement issued to media, DP World, said since 2016 the company has undertaken a comprehensive review of its policies and processes and that it takes its obligations towards providing a safe workplace very seriously, including psychological safety.”

Workers say otherwise. Retaliation and abuses of power, unjustified criticism, offensive language and behaviour are all forms of workplace bullying which can have a serious impact on employees.  

The Fair Work Act 

In Australia, the Fair Work Amendment Act 2013 defines workplace bullying as repeated unreasonable behaviour by an individual towards a worker which creates a risk to health and safety.

It outlines a range of behaviours that can constitute bullying. If a bullying claim cannot be resolved by an employer, an employee is able to pursue their case through the Fair Work Commission. Under the Fair Work Amendment Act 2013 a worker who has been bullied at work to apply to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) for an order to stop the bullying.

Other avenues for employees who believe they have been bullied may be through tort law (a civil claim) or contract law – depending on the employee’s contractual employment agreement with their employer. 

In other cases, there may be a case for a criminal investigation which may result in criminal charges being laid. Threatening or intimidating someone can amount to criminal offences.  

But in a post #metoo social environment, when toxic workplaces are more in the spotlight than ever before, there is more pressure and onus on companies to get tough on employee misconduct and work towards stamping it out completely. 

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Author

Sonia Hickey

Sonia Hickey is a freelance writer, magazine journalist, and owner of 'Woman with Words'. She has a strong interest in social justice and is a member of the Sydney Criminal Lawyers® content team. Sonia is the winner of the Mondaq Thought Leadership Awards, Autumn 2021.

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