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Workplace bullying victim sacked for complaining

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By Raelee Heath

A Perth TAFE student has been dismissed from his apprenticeship after complaining about repeated workplace bullying incidents that included death threats, physical abuse and four broken ribs.

Polytechnic West student Mitchell Courtney, 19, was employed for two years at a suburban smash repairs business as an apprentice car spray painter, detailer and graphics artist.

Courtney said he suffered verbal and physical abuse over two months at the hands of an older co-worker, who “snapped” at him as he walked by, grabbed him by the throat and threw him against a car. Courtney was then chased into the paint shop, grabbed by his neck and “jabbed” three times under his ribs with a sealer gun.

Later, when Courtney told his boss he’d suffered four broken ribs, his boss reportedly said, “What do you want me to do about it?”

The bullying continued for the next two months, with the co-worker kicking him, telling him he was going to “put a bullet in his head” and belting him with work equipment.

The teen said he eventually reported the incident to the TAFE board, which resulted in the attacker losing his job.

However, Courtney said that after he complained to his boss that he had not been treated fairly, he too was dismissed.

“My boss just walked in and said, ‘You’ve got three days notice’ and walked out,” he said.

The TAFE student said he has not claimed compensation but has paid almost $200 in medical bills, including the realigning of his ribs and medication. He contacted Fairwork to resolve the issue but decided not to take the matter to court.

Fairwork Legal Administrative Assistant Patrick Hoang said former employees can make an unfair dismissal claim through the Commission if it is made within 21 days of the dismissal.

“The employer and the employee may then be given a hearing that will be mediated by the Commission in order to resolve the issue,” he said.

Mr Hoang said issues are resolved at mediation about 80 per cent of the time.

“The hearing may result in turning the termination into a resignation on the employees work history, but the final decision is up to the Commission,” he said.

The teen has since found a job laying concrete while his apprenticeship is on hold. The business owner did not respond to requests for comment.

Anyone experiencing workplace bullying or unfair dismissal should contact Fairwork or visit their website http://www.fairwork.gov.au/ for information.

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