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Victorian Cafe Fined $220,000 Over Bullying Death

Monday, February 08, 2010

ABC News reported that a magistrate has fined a Melbourne cafe company $220,000 over a workplace bullying case that resulted in a waitress committing suicide. In addition a number of employees were also fined sums of between $10,000 and $45,000 each.

Brodie Panlock, a 19-year-old waitress, took her own life in 2006 after enduring persistent bullying by her colleagues at Cafe Vamp in Hawthorn.

Company director Marc Da Cruz and three of his employees, Nicholas Smallwood, 26, now of Queensland, Rhys MacAlpine, 28, of Kooyong, and Gabriel Toomey, 23 of Abbotsford all pleaded guilty to charges under the occupational health and safety act.

The court was told Smallwood and MacAlpine mentally and physically bullied Ms Panlock during work hours and even taunted her about a previous suicide attempt.

The magistrate described their bullying as "persistent and vicious" and said cafe owner Da Cruz condoned it.

Smallwood was fined $45,000. MacAlpine was fined $30,000 and Toomey must pay $10,000. Da Cruz was fined $30,000.

Prosecutor Gary Livermore told a pre-sentence hearing last week that witnesses had seen Smallwood and MacAlpine pour fish oil into Ms Panlock's kitbag and then pour it over her hair and clothes, reducing her to tears.

He also said they engaged in indirect bullying, such as calling her fat and ugly.

Safety Tip:
All organisations and businesses must have safety rules regarding workplace bullying and harassment. 

Ensure that these items are included in your safety induction and that staff have signed off on policies and procedures strictly forbidding bullying and harassment. 

Instances of bullying and harassment need to be reported and resolved before they get out of hand. 

The above case highlights the severe impact these type of incidents can have on the victim, the company and employees involved. 

So now is a good time to ask yourself if your workplace bullying and harassment policies and procedures are up to standard, communicated and enforced?

Click below to access an example of a basic Harassment and Bullying Policy

Harassment and Bullying Policy (PDF 7KB)


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