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TORMENTED: Melbourne nut boss busted for bullying staffer

(Image: Getty)

The manager of a retailer that sells nuts, fried fruits and lollies in shopping malls has been found guilty of bullying a storeman.

Matthew John Sallama pleaded guilty this month in the Sunshine Magistrates’ Court of breaching the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The 39-year-old is the son of the owner of John's Nuts Operations Pty Ltd, and was managing the business when the bullying incidents occurred.

The court heard that over a period of six months in 2016, Sallama tormented the employee with "profane, belittling, degrading, or offensive" language, all said in a "aggressive, intimidating or abusive" manner.

The manager also threatened to "burn" the storeman's wages, sack him, take electronic toll expenses out of his pay, and not pay for his visa.

This ongoing treatment triggered a deterioration in the worker's mental health, causing "distress, depression, fearfulness and tearfulness".

In December, the same court had already found John's Nuts guilty of failing to provide a safe work environment. The two convictions resulted in $87,500 of fines in total.

WorkSafe acting executive director Adam Watson said John's Nuts had treated its employee appallingly.

"[Bullying] poses a serious risk to a worker's mental health, and the effects can have a lifelong impact – not only on the individual being bullied but their family as well," he said.

"All employees have the right to go to work without fear of being bullied, harassed or singled-out while on the job, and all employers have a clear responsibility to take care of their workers’ mental and physical health and safety."

The employee had also suffered physical injuries from his stint at John's Nuts, submitting a complaint last year about the company's handling of his claim for work-related tendonitis.

The retailer, now in external administration, was convicted and fined $60,000 for seven return-to-work breaches and "failing to provide suitable post-injury employment".

Watson warned WorkSafe would continue to pursue prosecution for bullying cases.

The agency defines workplace bullying as "repeated unreasonable behaviour" directed at staff that "creates a risk to their health and safety".

"Bullying behaviour can take many forms and can include name calling, threats and physical abuse, singling out a worker for different treatment for no good reason, or pointedly excluding someone from social events," WorkSafe stated.

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