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An employee sought review of their agency’s response to allegations made by a colleague about the employee’s behaviour, and allegations the employee made about the colleague’s behaviour. The background to this matter was historical conflict between staff of two teams whose functions overlapped.

The agency declined to investigate the employee’s allegations about the colleague. The agency engaged a consultant to investigate the colleague’s allegations about the employee, and a different consultant to conduct a review of the employee’s concerns about the investigation and the handling of his allegations. The employee was found to have behaved inappropriately in one incident. This finding was recorded on the employee’s personnel file but no other action was taken (for example, action under the performance management or misconduct frameworks).

The Merit Protection Commissioner declined to review the employee’s concerns on the basis that further review by either the agency or the Merit Protection Commissioner was not justified in the circumstances. The Merit Protection Commissioner gave the following reasons:

  • No substantive adverse outcome for the employee arose from the agency’s handling of this matter.
  • The employee’s allegations about the colleague concerned incidents that were several years old and arose from: workplace gossip; speculation about motives; and differences of opinion about the colleague’s authority. The Merit Protection Commissioner considered that further review or investigation was unlikely to prove or disprove the employee’s claims.
  • The employee had not identified any outcome from further review that would assist in resolving the workplace dispute. In the Merit Protection Commissioner’s opinion, the employee wanted to be proven correct and this was an unlikely outcome.

The Merit Protection Commissioner noted that the staff involved in this dispute were relatively senior, and the workplace conflict was ongoing and appeared not to have been resolved by the agency’s interventions. The Merit Protection Commissioner suggested the agency incorporate behavioural expectations, including collaborative working, in the performance agreements of the staff involved in the dispute.