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An Australian man has been ordered to cough up $21,000 after being convicted of a workplace bullying incident.
Luke Chenoweth was working on an electrical job with an apprentice at a Woodville aged care facility in Adelaide two years ago.
When lunchtime rolled round, the 28-year-old decided to pull what he thought was a cheeky prank on the 19-year-old sparky. Chenoweth squirted lighter fluid on the apprentice's foot and groin before setting his shirt on fire.
The South Australian Employment Tribunal has heard he chased the young man around the site and continued to squirt the fluid onto him. The tribunal was told the 19-year-old could have suffered second-degree burns if he didn't quickly take off his clothes.
Deputy President Magistrate Stuart Cole said the workplace bullying incident was an act of 'gross stupidity' and could have led to serious injury or death.
"The potential for a devastating outcome from this incident was real," he said.
"[The victim] was an apprentice with little if any control or influence over the defendant as a supervisor."
Chenoweth pleaded guilty to breaching workplace safety laws and as a result has been fined $21,000, the largest workplace bullying penalty in South Australian history.
The tribunal heard this wasn't the first time the apprentice had been bullied by Chenoweth.
According to 7News.com.au, the 28-year-old tied the victim to a ladder with duct tape, locked him in a shipping container, whipped him with vinyl, refused him medical treatment after an electric shock and verbally abused him.
WorkSafe SA executive director Martyn Campbell said: "He was verbally abused, he had his tools hidden, he was locked in containers. So for him, it was pretty traumatic and probably a lot more serious for him than other people would consider.
"Mr Campbell said the penalty sent a strong message that workplace bullying would not be tolerated.
"We all have children or somebody that we love, we send them to work and we expect them to be looked after and supervisors to have a responsibility to make sure that they're safe."
The company Chenoweth works for, Tad-Mar Electrical, has pleaded guilty and will have their day at the tribunal in two months. Another man involved in the incident pleaded guilty and has been fined $12,000 after a hearing earlier this year.
Take this as a warning not to be a dickhead at work.
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