Unreasonable behaviour

A pharmacist who levelled allegations of bullying at his managers has been criticised by the Fair Work Commission for his own treatment of an intern

A NSW pharmacist recently brought allegations of bullying to the Fair Work Commission against his group dispensary manager, dispensary support manager, and human resources (HR) manager.

The pharmacist had over 12 years’ experience working in the industry, and had been with the employer in question since September 2017.

He mainly worked at two pharmacies in the Gosford region.

In his application for an order to stop bullying, the pharmacist alleged he had been expected to work at one of the pharmacies without adequate staff to support him on Saturdays.

He described how, in mid-July 2018, the employer had decided not to renew the contract of the dispense technician who used to cover Saturday, “without arranging for a proper replacement for her”.

The pharmacist claimed the technician was replaced by an intern pharmacist with “intellectual disabilities” and that he “ended up doing double and sometimes triple the effort to get things done on Saturdays”.

He claimed the intern pharmacist continued to be given Saturday shifts because he was the target of bullying.

In his evidence for the employer, the HR manager clarified that the intern pharmacist who had been hired to replace the dispense technician had a “learning disorder”, not an intellectual disability.

“It does take her a little bit more time to understand a process, but if she has the support, okay, if she is shown the patience, she gets these things quite quickly,” the HR manager told the Fair Work Commission.

When the pharmacist threatened to stop working Saturdays, the employer suggested training one of the pharmacy assistants, who had a Certificate II in Community Pharmacy, as a dispense technician.

“All staff need time and support when learning and developing new skills however [the pharmacist] showed no patience, understanding or support to this dispensary assistant during this time nor to the intern,” said the HR manager.

The pharmacist claimed that on Saturdays the workload was so bad that he could not sit down to have a break until 3pm or later—having started work at 8.30am.

He also claimed that the number of scripts sometimes exceeded guidelines of 200 scripts per shift per pharmacist without a dispense tech.

The employer denied the staffing level at the pharmacy was unreasonable.

The HR manager said that since the pharmacy trades at half the capacity in comparison to other days of the week, this did not warrant a second pharmacist to be rostered on.

He provided evidence to the Commission showing a record of daily script totals for every day from July to December 2018.

This revealed that the average number of scripts issued on a Saturday was 168, compared with 250-280 on weekdays most weeks.

The pharmacist claimed these figures had been manipulated, but conceded he had nothing to back up this assertion.

Further analysis of CCTV footage by the employer’s retail manager revealed the pharmacist typically spent between 76 and 113 minutes sitting down while using his mobile phone, excluding the morning tea break or when being in the lunch room.

The pharmacist claimed he had quit working Saturdays after he had been “yelled at” by the retail manager and area manager over the phone, because he had asked the intern pharmacist to work in the dispensary “because she had nothing to do”.

However the HR Manager alleged the pharmacist had been “acting unreasonably towards the intern, demanding that she work in the dispensary when there was no need for her to.

“Evidence shows that [the pharmacist] was the aggressor and yelled at the intern to go home in front of all staff and customers at the time because she allegedly refused to help him,” the manager continued.

“As a result the intern was in tears in the corner of the pharmacy and … left other staff scared and intimidated.”

The Senior Deputy President of the Fair Work Commission found the pharmacist had not been bullied at work.

The Commission was also not satisfied that the employer had imposed an unreasonable workload on the pharmacist on Saturdays, based on the script volume evidence provided.

Analysis of the CCTV footage “further disproves the applicant’s claim that he was overworked”.

“I am satisfied that the employer took reasonable steps to address the applicant’s concerns,” the Commission found.

“The only clear evidence of unreasonable behaviour in this matter concerns the applicant’s own conduct… his behaviour to the intern pharmacist on that day was completely unacceptable, as was the way he spoke to a number of other employees.”

The pharmacist’s application was dismissed.

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  1. Gavin Mingay

    Workloads and bullying are only getting worse…. 🙁

    • Tony Soffer

      Maybe in some Pharmacies. Maybe not this one?

  2. Steve Flavel

    Interesting psychology lesson here.. Often it’s the bullies that think they are being bullied and justify their behaviour to others accordingly, all stemming from the misguided belief that they are somehow more important than others.

  3. Amandarose

    I am wondering how one gets to be a pharmacist with a learning disability? Is that even safe?

  4. Tamer Ahmed

    I have seen this scenario so many times before.

    The owner tries to reduce the wages spent on a certain day he reduces the staff (in this case he didn’t renew the tech’s contract).

    The pharmacist on that day gets absolutely smashed so the owner hires a total rookie who is cheaper.

    The rookie is thrown into our twisted world of pharmacy without any proper training by the owner.

    The rookie starts to work and either proves he is a fast learner or fails to pull his weight and becomes a risk for the pharmacist in charge who doesn’t have time to train him.

    It totally eludes me why would an owner put an intern with a learning disability on one of the lowest staffed days without giving that intern an extended period to get comfortable ?

    The pharmacist in charge tells the owner that this is not working on that day.

    The owner gets irritated cause he simply doesn’t have a solution as he has lost the right person to do the job and he is not willing to pay a qualified tech or another pharmacist and can’t admit that he took a stupid decision.

    He tells the pharmacist in charge to suck it up because he doesn’t have a solution.

    The pharmacist in charge doesn’t want to work on that day as its simply too stressful and he tells the owner I am not going to work that day.

    The owner looks at his roster of pharmacists and if he sees that this pharmacist is expendable, he starts building a file on him to get rid of him using all sort of tricks.

    For example unreasonable customer complaints, late arrivals at work, allegations of extended lunch breaks, creating conflicts with other staff members, using cameras to frame him for theft or anything against the policy, allegations of absenteeism or insubordination etc…

    If the pharmacist in charge doesn’t see the game that is being played and tries to fight back all these framing efforts intensify.

    And this is probably one of the first lessons that every pharmacist should learn that if you have reached this point in your relation with the owner its better to resign.

    No employee pharmacist ever wins these fights and its better to resign as neither AHPRA or Fair work are going to support him unless his scriptload is something like 300 scripts.

    In which case they send a recommendation to the owner to improve the staffing levels and that’s it.

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