With the return of millions of workers working remotely from their basements to the office comes close interaction with their fellow employees. An Australian employee complained about his supervisor’s conduct and an Appeals Court had to decide if excessive intestinal flatulence aimed at a coworker was bullying or not.
David Hingst was an engineer working for Construction Engineering Pty, Limited. His nemesis was his supervisor named Greg Short. Hingst testified that he had moved out of a communal office space to avoid supervisor Short’s flatulence. Hingst told the court that Short would enter Hingst’s small windowless office several times a day and break wind, and leave. Hingst “alleged that Mr. Shirt would regularly break wind on him or at him, Mr. Short thinking this to be funny,” the two appeal court judges wrote in their ruling. At other times, “he would fart behind me and walk away. He would do this five or six times a day" Hingst said.
The Australian Supreme Court of Victoria held against the fartee on the ground that the supervisor’s conduct under Australian law must be so unreasonable as to give rise to a “recognizable psychiatric illness,” and none was proven by Hingst. Thus, the farting may have been unpleasant, but it was not illegal bullying.
While this case from Australia may seem humorous, it serves as a reminder of workplace conduct between employees. Under New Hampshire common law, there are very few bullying cases involving a private workplace. But illegal bullying in the workplace, which must rise above unpleasantness, is a serious issue. If you get “wind” of such a workplace bullying case, you should consult a New Hampshire employment law attorney at Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, P.C. at (603) 288-1403 or fill out our online contact form.