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Addressing a vexatious bullying complaint

person making a complaint. magnifying glass investigating complaint. WorkPlacePLUS branding

A vexatious bullying complaint is a false or groundless accusation of bullying made in bad faith that causes distress, detriment or harassment to the subject of the complaint.

Vexatious bullying complaints may not be easy to identify. It is important that employers respond consistently to any bullying complaint by following their organisation’s complaints and grievances process and conducting a procedurally fair investigation.

At the beginning of an investigation, the employee making the complaint should be advised of the possible consequences of a vexatious complaint, such as disciplinary action or termination of employment. If they then withdraw their complaint, they should not be victimised, but employers should note a red flag in the workplace culture, signally underlying issues that may need to be addressed.

When a bullying complaint is determined to be vexatious, it is important for employers to carefully identify areas requiring further consultation and investigation, such as:

  • signs of bullying behaviour

  • signs of misconduct

  • work, health and safety hazards

  • any other new issues that came to light from the initial investigation

In addition, vexatious complaints can have a negative emotional impact on all parties involved. It is important to maintain good communication and remind employees of the available support such as an employee assistance program. Addressing a vexatious bullying complaint can be complicated for an employer, and a perceived lack of independence can pose additional risks. In some cases, engaging an external workplace investigator may be the best option. For more information, please contact us today.


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