Sign company and bully boss fined $40,000

A company director and his Oakleigh South signage firm have been convicted and fined a combined $40,000 over the long-term bullying of a sub-contractor.


Printco (Aust) Pty Ltd and director Neil Pearson were sentenced in the Moorabbin Magistrates' Court on Tuesday after pleading guilty to a single charge each under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The company was convicted and fined $20,000 for failing to provide and maintain a safe system of work while Pearson was convicted and fined $20,000 for failing to take reasonable care as an officer of the company.

Pearson and Printco were also ordered to pay combined costs of $9,309.

The court heard the sub-contractor suffered verbal abuse, intimidation and threats by Pearson over a period of four years.

The bullying culminated in a phone call in August 2021, recorded by the sub-contractor, during which Pearson yelled, swore and abused them after they questioned the legality of working during a COVID-19 lockdown.

The sub-contractor described feeling anxious and worn down by the abuse and developed a mental injury that left them unable to work.

WorkSafe inspectors visited the workplace and found that the sub-contractor was one of a number of workers who had been subject to Pearson's inappropriate behaviour.

While the company had policies and procedures in place to address workplace bullying, they were found to be inadequate as they did not provide information about how to report inappropriate workplace behaviour; did not provide definitions or examples of bullying; and workers had not been provided any training.

It was reasonably practicable for Printco and Pearson to have provided and maintained a safe system of work for identifying, reporting, investigating and stopping inappropriate workplace behaviour, including workplace bullying.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said no one deserved to be bullied, abused and intimidated at work.

"WorkSafe will simply not tolerate this sort of abhorrent behaviour in any Victorian workplace, particularly when it is perpetrated by those in positions of power," Dr Beer said.

"I hope this case can prompt other employers to reassess their own practices and ensure they themselves are setting clear standards for appropriate workplace behaviours."

To prevent workplace bullying and harassment employers should:

  • Set clear standards of which behaviours are allowed and which are not in your workplace through training and leaders role modelling desired behaviours.
  • Have policies and procedures to guide a consistent approach to prevent, respond and report workplace bullying and harassment. Discuss and promote these in team meetings and health and safety committee meetings.
  • Encourage reporting. It is important for those who experience or witness workplace bullying or harassment to know who they can talk to, that a report will be taken seriously and that confidentiality will be maintained.
  • Ensure that information about workplace bullying and harassment, including relevant policies and procedures, are part of supervisor training and new employee inductions.
  • All employers should carry out a regular check of the workplace in consultation with employees and health and safety representatives to identify hazards and risks such as signs that bullying or harassment is happening or if there is an increased risk of it happening.