Did Mr. Stinky Create a Hostile Work Environment?

Ok, everybody. Here’s a case which cannot be ignored – but probably should be.

But your intrepid blog covers it anyway, because we believe that you have a right to know!  (And you thought that employment law was boring!)

It ostensibly involves bullying, which, as we know, is not actionable in virtually every jurisdiction in the US without more — unless it consists of acts of harassment based upon a protected class, such as gender, race, religion, disability, etc.  Just know that not every hostile work environment is actionable.

So, while it may be beyond our remit, here goes.

It seems that a 56-year old Australian employee sued his company for 1.8 million Australian dollars claiming that his boss had been mercilessly bullying him by coming into his small, windowless office 5 or 6 times a day and … “thrusting his bum” in our employee’s face and letting go a gaseous emission.  He claimed that he was bullied thusly until his job was terminated.

That’s right.  Just simple bullying – no protected class, American readers.

And, oh … he said that he referred to his former boss as “Mr. Stinky.”  And that he sprayed deodorant on him.

Oh, boy…

The employee lost after a 17 day (!!) trial, and lost on appeal last week, in which he argued that “flatulence constituted assaults.”  The appeals court held that the boss did not bully or harass him and that “flatulence did not necessarily constitute bullying.”

Good to know!   I’ll have to tell my clients…

PS.  The employee intends to appeal to Australia’s highest court.

And that’s all we know – or need to know.

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Richard Cohen

Richard B. Cohen is a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles, LLP, a national law firm. Richard Cohen has litigated and arbitrated complex corporate, commercial and employment disputes for more than 35 years, and is a trusted advisor to business owners and in-house counsel both in the United States and internationally. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, domestic and foreign commercial and investment banks, Pacific-rim corporations and real estate development companies, as well as start-up businesses throughout the United States. Email Richard at [email protected]