Workplace bullying: A sociological examination of the medico-legal response to a growing social problem in Australia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Workplace bullying is recognised as a social problem associated with significant financial and social costs for employers, individual workers and the broader community. While workplace bullying has enjoyed widespread academic attention, research has largely overlooked intersections among workplace bullying, law and society. In presenting key findings from a discursive content analysis of all (n = 131) arbitrated Workers Compensation Commission (WCC) cases between 2002 and 2015 in New South Wales, Australia, we evidence how systemic inconsistencies and ambiguities in defining workplace bullying provide opportunity for interpretation that reflects systemic power inequities, social biases and stigmas. Findings reveal the WCC prioritises medico-legal discourse, framing psychological injury as the fault of individual worker vulnerability to psychological injury. The result is a hidden realignment of workers' compensation ideology, with the concept of 'fault' entering a 'nofault' legal system and undermining the workers' compensation system's mandate of supporting an injured worker's restoration to pre-injury status and negatively affecting the ability of employers to effectively manage injuries and workers' compensation claims.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-68
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Health, Safety and Environment
Volume35
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jan 2019

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