Anti-bullying campaigner Donna Laubli told heraldsun.com.au this morning the case could be a beacon of light for bullied workers across Victoria.
“Let this be a deterrent to other bosses out there,” she said.
“Let this be inspiration for people who are being bullied at the moment in the workplace. It could be a light at the end of the tunnel for these people. “Ms Laubli said Mr De Petro would hopefully be able to live a normal life after the payout.
“Bullying goes beyond the act, it may have affected his family, his children or his parents as well as him,” she said.
“Through that money hopefully he will be able to get his life back on track but it will never give him back what he lost from what he went through.”
Mr De Petro was physically abused for missing a single Smartie during months of horrific bullying.
The gentle-natured cleaner was turned into a psychological wreck as he suffered every day at the hands of his tormentors, and he has been told he will never work again.
Last week a County Court jury awarded the father of four the damages payout, believed to be one of the biggest for bullying in Victoria.
His trial heard that during his three months at International Airline Services, an aircraft contract cleaning company at Tullamarine, his mental and physical health deteriorated to the point where he collapsed.
Mr De Petro said yesterday the Smartie incident shocked and distressed him and his fellow workers.
“I must have left the lousy Smartie on one of the floors near the corridor,” he said.
“My supervisor says, ‘Look what you missed on the floor’ . I was leaning down and she says, ‘Get closer, it’s there’. I couldn’t see anything and put my head down beneath the seat.
“She took my head in her hands and pressed and rubbed my face up against the floor. Pushing my face up against the floor to show me the Smartie.”
Mr De Petro, of Sunbury, complained to his boss but he was told he had exaggerated the incident and was called a “wuss”.
It was just one of many humiliations he suffered as supervisors pushed the $13-an-hour cleaners to the limit.
“It was bullying every day. There was the ‘F’ word, the abuse, the constant harassment,” Mr De Petro said.
“I was scared to go to work. You get tensed up, confused at what you have to do. You don’t know if you are doing the right thing because you are stressed.”
Mr De Petro has welcomed the Herald Sun’s anti-bullying campaign and the State Government’s plan to bring in “Brodie’s Law”, named after waitress Brodie Panlock, a victim who took her own life. The law change means bullies could face up to 10 years in jail.
“There is no need for bullying in the workplace, in schools or anywhere,” Mr De Petro said.
“My advice to victims is to be strong and come forward. Talk to somebody.”
Lawyer Tony Carbone, managing partner of Nowicki Carbone, who acted for Mr De Petro, said there was a huge increase in the number of people approaching them with complaints of bullying.
“The sad thing about Pasquale’s case, and these cases in general, is that you can’t see an injury. It’s psychiatric,” Mr Carbone said.
“What these bullies are doing is effectively destroying lives. Pasquale feel vindicated and he feels someone listened to him. But there are other people out there who are destroyed.”