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Flatulence in the workplace is not a form of bullying, Australian appeals court rules

An Australian appeals court on Friday ruled that repeated flatulence targeted at another individual wasn’t a form of bullying or assault.

The ruling by the Victoria state Court of Appeal came after David Hingst, a 56-year-old engineer, brought a case against his former supervisor for constantly farting toward him, demanding $1.3 million in damages from his former employer in Melbourne, Construction Engineering.

The court upheld an earlier ruling stating that even if Hingst’s allegations were found to be truthful, breaking wind doesn’t constitute bullying.

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But Hingst remains defiant and says he will take his case to the country’s High Court, Australia's final court of appeal.

The court’s judges wrote in their ruling that Hingst argued that “flatulence constituted assaults” and “alleged that Mr. Short would regularly break wind on him or at him, Mr. Short thinking this to be funny.”

The Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Victoria is expected to decide whether flatulence is a form of bullying.

The Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Victoria is expected to decide whether flatulence is a form of bullying. (Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Victoria)

The man testified in court claiming that the bullying forced him to move out of a communal office space to avoid supervisor Greg Short's flatulence.

Yet Short would still enter Hingst’s small, windowless office a few times a day just to break wind, he said. This led him to spray Short with deodorant and call him “Mr. Stinky.”

“He would fart behind me and walk away. He would do this five or six times a day,” Hingst said outside court.

“He would fart behind me and walk away. He would do this five or six times a day.”

— David Hingst

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Short said he doesn’t remember breaking wind in Hingst's office, “but I may have done it once or twice.”

But flatulence isn’t the only form of bullying alleged by Hingst, adding that Short was also abusive over the phone, used profane language and taunted him.

Rather than focusing on more recognized forms of bullying or harassment, the judges said that Hingst “put the issue of Mr. Short's flatulence to the forefront” of his bullying case.

The court found that Short didn’t bully or harass the employee, with Hingst failing to establish that his former employer had been negligent.

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Hingst worked at the company between May 2008 and April 2009. He was laid off due to a downturn in construction work due to the global financial crisis in late 2008, the company said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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