28 April – 4 May 2014
The CSIRO is setting up an internal bully-busting unit amid the fall-out from the accusations of a toxic workplace. A leader has said that many improvements have been made but the CSIRO was more concerned that more than half of the staffers who responded to a recent survey said they would still be afraid to speak out about workplace bullying. After investigation, only 2 managers are being recommended for code-of conduct investigations after 110 complaints of bad behaviour. The Commonwealth Ombudsman Dennis Pearce has said that the issues have been substantially addressed by management action in the past year. Dr Pearce investigated the CSIRO and published a report on accusations finding a toxic culture. However, the founder of Victims of CSIRO has said that they were 100% dissatisfied with the rate of Dr Pearce’s process.
There has been large debate about the government’s expected lift of the pension age to 70. Essential Research has found that 7 in 10 people oppose raising the age to 70. However, based on a survey of 500 older Australians, the survey found that there has been a positive shift in the way Australian employers view older workers. Faced with a manufacturing downturn, the high dollar and an ageing workforce means employers are increasingly likely to view older workers as a reliable source of skills and experience. The rate of age discrimination has fallen from two years ago from 28% to 18%. There is also evidence that employers are more willing to invest in older workers, as the proportion of training or up-skilling of older workers has risen to 67%. Two thirds of older workers want to keep working regardless of their financial circumstances and nearly four in ten want more flexibility in hours and remuneration.
“Suck it up!” should not be our response to the proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act. Our laws should reflect the social and moral values, which underpin our society. The Government’s push to introduce sweeping change that neutralise protections against hate speech, is an attack on fundamental values of tolerance and respect. The recent Nielsen poll found 88% of respondents believe it should be unlawful to offend, insult or humiliate based on race, and the current law should be maintained. To trivialise these safeguards as merely protecting against ‘hurt feelings’ is incorrect and undermines the harm that can be caused by such comments.
The Federal Government has watered down its controversial proposals to police bullying on the internet. The Coalition had promised a national cyber-bullying commissioner with power to take down bullying material from social networks. However, the new proposed role of the Commissioner will focus only on helping children and not adults. The Government will not push for new and dedicated criminal offences aimed at punishing cyber-bullies, but instead rely on existing criminal measures. Any powers vested in the cyber-bullying commissioner will be used to police large social networks such as Facebook rather than smaller players.
Predictions of 67 bullying complaints per week under the FWC’s power has failed to come true. The Commission’s quarterly report shows that as of 31 March, 151 applications had been made for stop bullying orders and only one was granted. 23 were withdrawn early in the case management process, 5 were withdrawn prior to conference and 16 were resolved during the course of proceedings. Of the 8 applications that were heard 7 were dismissed. However, the Commission is receiving more than 200 enquiries a week, which suggests that workplace bulling is still rife. The fact that the Commission can’t award compensation in bullying cases might be part of the reason it has received fewer applications than expected.
National Disability Groups and the Federal Government have criticised the AHRC’s decision to allow just 12 months for 10,000 supported employees to be re-assessed using a different wage tool. The Commission decided during the next year the Australian Disability Enterprises (ADE) should stop using the government endorsed BSWAT and commence using the Supported Wage System (SWS). However, criticism has emerged that the 12-month timeframe makes the system unworkable. Even if ADE’s want to transition to the SWS there aren’t enough qualified assessors to allow for this to happen. Adopting the SWS will increase wage costs by at least 50% and cause ADE’s to struggle to absorb these costs. However, Cain has said that a lawful wage assessment system is available to employers now. The SWS has been successfully used for over 20 years to set the wages of employees with disability, including in many ADE’s. National peak disability and advocacy groups say they are considering their options and have not ruled out seeking a review by the ATT.
Mr Delbridge, the technical advisor for the Rudd government’s home insulation program, claims he was bullied and eventually sacked for blowing the whistle on serious safety risks. He said he received his termination letter shortly after he laid out all of his safety concerns with director Aaron Hughes. He said he was then given an hour and a half to pack up his desk and leave. He said he tried to take his concerns up the bureaucratic chain, but was verbally threatened by environment department executive Will Kimber.
Australian soldiers on leave from the army are enlisting as guards at the Manus detention camp amid allegations of drub abuse and thuggish conduct. The Defence Force has confirmed it has given approval for soldiers to serve as guards. Several Wilson guards have been sacked for inappropriate conduct, including one man dismissed after an incident of sexual harassment to a disabled asylum seeker at the camp. Fairfax learnt the Wilson guard approached a detainee at the camp while holding a banana and suggesting the asylum seeker, who was short, should perform oral sex on the security workers. Accusations have also been made that steroid use is rampant amongst the guards. A Wilson spokeswoman conceded there had been several sackings for inappropriate conduct but would not confirm how many guards had been fired. She also said employees are required to undertake a full medical which includes drug screening prior to employment.
The Federal Court of Australia has warned employers that benefits such as special incentives should not discriminate between employees. In this case of some of the employees took part in strikes for industrial action whilst others continued to work. The employers decided to reward the workers who had worked through the industrial action by giving them a $300 gift voucher. No card was given to those who had not worked. During this time the employers continued to pay the non-striking workers their wages but also wanted to express their gratitude for the employees’ work which went above and beyond their ordinary duties. However, the court warned that the use of gifts, bonuses and other incentives should not be used to treat employees differently because they have, or have not, relied upon a workplace or legal entitlement.
The FWC rejected the unfair dismissal claim of a worker at Red Lea Chickens after he behaved aggressively towards other workers. Mr Kongor was an employee and took 2 days off with a work-related shoulder injury. His employer did not know that he would be absent. When he was given warning about his absence, he got agitated with an HR officer and the financial controller, who felt harassed and even scared because of his behaviour. After further absence he was called to a meeting about his injury at which he also responded aggressively and when he was told to return to work he refused. The incident ended when police were called and he was escorted out of the building. His employment was terminated without notice. The Commission found that the dismissal was valid; it was not harsh, unjust or unreasonable.
A Shire in WA’s Goldfields has voted not to lodge a formal complaint against a local publican who displayed a sign that was criticised as racist. The Denver City Hotel displayed a poster saying service would be refused to Indigenous people. The Aboriginal Legal Service of WA recently approached the Shire of Coolgardie saying the actions were offensive and unlawful and breached racial discrimination laws. However, the Shire president said legal action is unnecessary as the publican has apologised for her actions.
21 – 27 April 2014
Commissioner Susan Ryan has warned the federal government against raising the pension age without trying to encourage employers to hire people over 50. She said that ‘people can’t work until they are 70 if the system won’t let them.’ The pension age is already on track to rise to 67 by 2023.
Managers have emerged as the most commonly accused of bullying in Australian workplaces. The FWC released its first analysis of cases heard since the new bullying laws were put in place. Since January the Commission has received 151 applications from people alleging they are suffering bullying at work. Almost a third were withdrawn or resolved before a hearing could be held. The Commission made only 8 decisions and only one of them found ongoing bullying was occurring. Of the 151 applications made, only 3 alleged a subordinate in the workplace was bullying them, while 20 people said they had been the subject of bullying by a group of workers.
Staff at the Royal Hobart Hospital have been subjected to a culture of intense entrenched bullying. The problem continues despite the Industrial Relations Commission last year ordering an audit of management practices following multiple grievances. The Commission’s report stated ‘a high level of inappropriate and unprofessional patterns of communication have developed within the department, to the extent that this had become a tolerated part of the organisational culture.’
Covert surveillance is being used to fight against Australia’s rising tide of compensation claims from workers who say their jobs have left them mentally damaged. Comcare has announced it is going undercover in an effort to bust dodgy claims by public servants. This follows a recent case where NAB put private eyes on a former employee in Sydney who claimed worker’s compensation for mental disorders allegedly caused by the bullying he suffered at the bank. Mr Azery looked a mess when he gave his evidence to the ATT and his wife gave evidence that he was now totally dependent on her. But when he was being secretly tailed and filmed by private detectives, Mr Azery looked great. A neuropsychologist told the court that Mr Azary endorsed a high degree of exaggerated, unusual and extreme symptoms typical of individuals asked to feign mental disorders in simulation research. The Tribunal found Mr Azery and his wife to be unreliable witnesses and rejected their evidence and threw the case out.
A research project that followed the career trajectories of men and women law graduates has found that men are generally earning higher salaries than the women. Women had experienced discrimination on the basis of gender and family responsibilities, whereas men had reported it on the basis of disability or ethnicity. Close to two-thirds of the men from the graduate class now worked more than 50 hours a week, compared with almost a quarter of the women. The project showed that upon graduating 59% of women and 61% of men went to work at large private legal firms whereas 25 years on a much lower proportion are still working for large firms, 29% of men and 11% of women. Two thirds of the men and a quarter of the women now earn salaries above $300,000.
14 – 20 April 2014
The Federal Circuit Court in Brisbane has imposed a fine of nearly $300,000 on 2 Thai restaurants on the Gold Coast over their conduct towards an employee. The court case came after the worker was told his employment would be terminated on his 65th birthday despite his good employment record at the restaurants over many years. This is the first ever litigation over aged-related discrimination in Australia. Ombudsman Natalie James says she hopes the court ruling can act as a powerful precedent and help to combat discrimination on the basis of age. The Diversity Council Australia says it is coming across growing cases of aged related discrimination in the nation’s workplaces. Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan believes the problem is likely to become more noticeable as the population ages and medical advancements lead more Australians to work til an older age.
Bibby Financial Services has been ordered to pay $1.4 million in compensation to its former sales director Ashley Sharma by the NSW Court of Appeal. The court dismissed Bibby’s appeal against an earlier decision awarding Sharma the compensation of his $1.4 million bonus plus six months’ salary. Sharma’s employment contract was terminated after Bibby’s NSW sales manager accused him of sexual harassment. An investigation was started into the claim, but before Sharma was made aware of the allegations, or given an opportunity to be interviewed and respond he was forced to either resign or have his employment terminated. The court held that at the time Bibby decided to terminate Sharma’s employment it did so in full knowledge of the allegations of serious misconduct yet decided not to rely on those matters or to assert Sharma engaged in serious misconduct until after he rejected Bibby’s offer. The company was obliged contractually to follow a process in the event there was any suggestion of the misconduct Sharma had engaged in.
A claim by a 66 year old that he was discriminated against because of his age when requesting a loan from NAB has failed in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. It held that it was ‘reasonable for a lender such as NAB and its officers to have regard to a prospective borrower’s capacity to repay. The establishment of repayments is part of a standard policy or guideline.
The department of Human Services has been savaged by a federal tribunal over its handling of bullying accusations as a Sydney Centrelink Office. The ATT has heard evidence of a manager miming shooting an employee at a meeting. Another worker left a nervous wreck and begging not to be sent back to ‘that horrible place’ was forced out of her job for 11 months while suffering a psychiatric condition. Ms Kosteski won her case before the tribunal after her claim was initially refused. The tribunal heard the department’s national management were aware of the problems at the Office after several allegations of bullying had been raised anonymously. Three doctors, including one appointed by DHS, found she was suffering from a work-induced psychiatric condition, although their diagnoses differed slightly. Ms Koteski returned to work in a different office and it was ordered that compensation should be paid, as Centrelink’s efforts to help its worker were too little too late.
While the FWC’s stop orders for bullying do not contemplate compensation. Failing to appropriately deal with a bullying complaint can be costly, as was seen in Ms Keegan’s recent success in the Supreme Court. Ms Keegan was a former assistant manager employed by retail chain Sussan and alleged she suffered major psychiatric injury due to bullying and harassment by her manager. Ms Keegan complained that Ms Clarke’s conduct included, being left out of business management matters, spoken to aggressively and subjected to unwarranted criticism. Ms Keegan then made a complaint to the regional manager and was told to ‘put some lippy on and go home to her bub’. The complaint was never followed up on. When Ms Keegan made a further complaint she was told that she would have to work it out for herself. Ms Keegan brought a common law claim for negligence, breach of contract or breach of statutory duty. The court found that Sussan breached its duty of care to Ms Keegan and caused her injury. Ms Keegan was awarded just under $240,000.
Workplace drug testing is likely to become increasingly common as employers attempt to cut ‘presenteeism’ and ensure safety in the workplace. But unions say the tests are an invasion of privacy, particularly when they come in the form of a urine test. More than a third of full time workers surveyed said they had taken drugs or alcohol within two hours of starting work, and some had even begun to use newly invented psychoactive drugs in an attempt to stay one step ahead of the testers. The biggest threat from workplace drug use is safety. Studies have found that in Australia the overall use of drugs and alcohol in the workplace is relatively low, although in some industries such as hospitality and finance rates were are much higher.
Australians will become some of the oldest workers in the world if the government lifts the pension age to 70. Mr Hockey has said that his generation could have to work for longer to prevent serious future budgetary stresses from an ageing population. The plan is heavily criticised.
7 – 13 April 2014
Young Muslim women have been targeted in a cyber-bullying campaign of anti-Islamic group Australian Defence League that has left them traumatised and fearful of going out in public. Tensions have been rising for weeks as the women and children’s schools have been photographed, filmed and posted on the Internet accompanied by derogatory and inflammatory comments. Photos were taken of the women without their knowledge. Those subjected to the cyber-bullying have been urged to complain to police and to the social media sites posting the photos and comments.
The head of the Commonwealth Bank has declared his bank and others must do more to stamp out discrimination against pregnant and working mothers. CEO Ian Narev said the pursuit of gender diversity was critical to the continued success of Australia. A study of 2000 mothers by the Australian Human Rights Commission found one in two women experienced discrimination in the workplace during their pregnancy, parental leave or upon returning to work. Discrimination included reduced pay or responsibility, fewer career opportunities and even redundancy or dismissal for one in five respondents. The Commission also surveyed fathers and found one in four who took paternity leave experienced negative attitudes. Elizabeth Broderick said the data showed Australia had a culture of not viewing women in the workforce as serious or committed employees once they made the decision to start a family. One in three women who experienced discrimination said they had either resigned or started looking for another job as a result.
Australia’s sex discrimination commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, says she’s surprised and shocked at the high level of discrimination that Australian women face for having a baby. She said that this would have a significant impact, not just on women, but a broader impact on the business and also the economy. The Human Rights Commission has found that half of the country’s working mothers experience discrimination, with many of them dismissed or made redundant when they had their babies. The report also found that few women chose to make a formal complaint. The report found most women tell someone about the discrimination, but only one in ten take their complaint to a government agency. Even fewer make a formal complaint to their employer. One in five mothers were dismissed or made redundant once their employers found out they were pregnant. From these mothers who perceived they’d been discriminated against, 22% of them left the labour market entirely. That compares with a group who left the labour market of 14% who hadn’t experienced discrimination.
The Australian Human Rights Commission, Supporting Working Parents: Pregnancy and Return to Work National Review, found 18% of pregnant workers say they have been sacked, threatened with sacking or didn’t have their contact renewed, either during pregnancy, when requesting or taking parental leave, or when they returned to work. Following the release of the report the Business Council of Australia chief executive, Jennifer Westacott said employers should have active strategies in place to encourage inclusive, gender-diverse workplaces. She said workplace discrimination of any kind, whether by employers or co-workers, is unacceptable and the results of this survey are certainly concerning. Employers should have a strong interest in retaining valued staff and in increasing participation in the workforce. Victorian Legal Aid has called for a strengthening of laws to protect women’s rights at work. They said that only 154 women made complaints about pregnancy discrimination to the commission in 2012-13, which indicated that the current laws were clearly not working.
A Thai restaurant that sacked a waiter because he had reached what they said was retirement age of 65 has been found guilty in the Federal Circuit Court of age discrimination. The Fair Work Ombudsman’s first litigation relating to discrimination on the grounds of age ended with the restaurant operators being fined $29,150 for contraventions of age discrimination laws. The waiter was also paid $10,000 in compensation. The restaurant management wrote to the employee saying that it was the ‘policy of the company that we do not employ any staff that attains the retirement age, which in your case is 65 years.’ The employee responded by saying that his performance at work was no different from when he was 64. Theravanish Investments currently operate two Thai restaurants. Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said that discrimination against employees on the grounds of age is unlawful and the outcome of the case serves as a warning to employers that it won’t be tolerated. The employee had started working at the company in late 1996 and had remained there until 2011. He took long service leave in April 2011 and when he was due to return to work he was told that he would work part time. It was shortly after this that he received the letter from the company informing him of the plans to terminate his employment on his 65th birthday.
In Australian and International Pilots Association v Qantas Airways Ltd the Federal Court of Australia held that Qantas had an implied contractual right to seek detailed medical information from a pilot who had been on long term personal sick leave. The court also found that Qantas had not taken adverse action when it threatened to discipline the pilot for failing to provide a report from his treating doctor on his prognosis and ability to return to full duties. In managing employees on extended sick leave, or who have exhausted sick leave entitlement but remain absent from work, the decision supports an employer’s right to request the provision of detailed medical information in certain circumstances. In order for this implied contractual right to arise, any applicable enterprise agreement or award must not be exhaustive on the issue, and importantly the information requested must be for legitimate operational or business purposes to enable the employer to comply with its obligations under work health and safety legislation.
This decision has recently been upheld by Grant v BHP where Commissioner Spencer upheld the dismissal of an employee who had refused to attend a medical assessment by the company’s doctor in order to assess the employee’s fitness to return to work. The commissioner did note that BHP Coal should have provided the employee with a clearer explanation as to why it was necessary to submit to an assessment by the company’s doctor, when the employee’s doctor had cleared him to return to work.
In an unusual case of workplace bullying the bully was found to have kept a diary of his mistreatment of his victim. He catalogued the extensive and sometimes bizarre bullying acts on the company’s information technology system. In doing so, he was bragging to his cohort and encouraging them to join in, which they did. The bullying included turning up the heat in the victim’s office to impossible levels and covertly contacting the victim’s customer seeking to persuade them to make a complaint against her. The bullying allegations were investigated and rejected by two investigations, first by the company’s internal investigation and then by an occupation health and safety watchdog. It was only when the victim took the matter to court that critical evidence emerged about what had taken place. This case highlights that investigations into employee misconduct are not always impartial and may be dictated by the outcome that the employer is after.
A national women’s clothing retailer has been ordered to pay more than $235,000 in damages to an employee subjected to bullying after her return from maternity leave. A Supreme Court judge ordered the Sussan Corporation to pay former employee Ms Keegan damages after being bullied by her supervisor, Diana Clarke, over an 11-day period. Justice James Henry slammed Sussan’s saying it failed to comply with its own bullying and harassment policy. Ms Keegan’s complaint was not treated seriously or impartially he said. Confidentiality was not respected and no attempt at all was made to investigate the complaint. He was especially critical of Sussan’s further betrayal of Ms Keegan’s welfare by telling Ms Clarke about the bullying complaint, which resulted in further bullying from Ms Clarke. The court was told that the bullying was so extreme that Ms Keegan is unlikely to be able to return to full-time work. The abuse consisted of unwarranted criticism about Ms Keegan’s failure to sign customers to the stores VIP discount program, poor handwriting, failing to remove security tags from clothing and not mopping the floor properly. Justice Henry said ‘a reasonable person in Sussan’s position would have realised its ongoing failure to properly address Ms Keegan’s complaint considerably heightened the prospect of Ms Keegan’s emotional distress worsening.’
Convicted tax office letter bomber Colin George Dunstan has been awarded more than $4115,000 in workers compensation. But the former public servant will only receive $248,306 after amounts are deducted for previous payouts. Dunstan posted 28 bombs to colleagues and high profile public servants he believed had wronged him. He spent nine years behind bars after he was convicted of charges of posting an explosive and attempting to inflict grievous bodily harm. However, he was successful in the AAT, which found his former workplace had contributed to his chronic depression, which led to his crimes. He claimed he had been left depressed and suicidal after a former lover sexually harassed and stalked him in the fallout of a soured office romance.
Principals are being forced to take out intervention orders against unruly parents while teachers are confronting alarming levels of bullying and abuse every year. This is costing taxpayers millions of dollars in compensation payouts. Almost $9 million worth of claims for stress and injury have been paid out since 2010 renewing fears that schools don’t have enough support to cope with rising pressures in the education system. 300 teachers and principals have lodged successful WorkCover claims for harassment and bullying in the past four years.
1 – 6 April 2014
Partners Andrew Tobin and Solicitor Claire Tuffield report on recent decisions from the Fair Work Commission, which showcases its new scope, and practical application of the jurisdiction to make ‘stop’ orders relating to bullying.
• The FWC may consider bullying behaviour which occurred prior to the commencement of its new jurisdictions
• The jurisdiction is not available to workers for businesses that are ‘constitutionally covered’
• The rate of applications made to the new jurisdiction is slower then was anticipated
• Employers who must comply with orders face difficult practical and legal issues, or risk being exposed to substantial civil penalties
• Employers should act quickly and proactively to prevent adverse consequences
The first substantial order has now been handed does by Senior Deputy President Drake in Applicant v Respondent PR548852. The names of the parties have not been published and there are no reported details of the background facts, merely a report of the orders made, by consent, following a preliminary conference. The orders highlight the flexibility available to the FWC in tailoring relief to specific situations, and also highlight the potential for the order to disrupt the workplace. The order made included, the alleged bully:
• Shall complete any exercise at the employer’s premises before 8am
• Shall have no contact with the applicant alone
• Shall make no comment about the applicant’s clothes or appearance
• Shall not send any emails or texts to the applicant except in emergency circumstances
• Shall not raise any work issues without notifying the Chief Operating Officer of the respondent, or his subordinate beforehand
• The applicant shall not arrive at work before 8.15am each day.
Any contravention of these orders could lead to prosecution for substantial civil penalties.
Research proposed to be undertaken by an Australian University will look at members of the public service perceptions of cyber-bulling in their workplaces. Ms Lawrence said that her preliminary investigation left no doubt in her mind about certain aspects of the subject. Her survey aims to identify how widespread the behaviour is.
Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane has said he would allow for some clarification of the RDA to make clear racial abuse is only unlawful if it causes ‘profound and serious effects’, as opposed to ‘mere slights’. Mr Soutphommasane has said such changes would codify existing case law by clarifying the operation of the RDA and s18 as it stood. Currently the government is considering the repeal of sections 18 B, C, D and E. He also argued that by removing ‘offend, insult and humiliate’ and introducing vilify using a narrow definition of ‘incitement of racial hatred’ the law would no longer be concerned with the harm inflicted on the victims.
The High Court of Australia has recognised the existence of a third ‘non-specific’ gender that is neither male nor female. The High Court ruled that not everyone should be forced to identify as a man or woman if they could legitimately describe themselves as gender neutral. The decision ended a long legal battle by sexual equality campaigner Norrie to overturn a NSW edict that gender is an inherently ‘binary’ concept involving only men or women. Norrie made headlines when she made an application to the NSW Department of Births, Deaths and Marriages that rejected her application for being ‘sex non-specific’. However the decision does not mean that people can simply identify themselves as ‘non-specific’ and expect legal recognition. Under the law only a person who has undergone gender reassignment surgery can nominate himself or herself as ‘non-specific’. The decision will help pave the way for achieving equality and freedom from discrimination.
Mr Balthazaar was desperate to stop Centrelink public servant from bullying him and lodged his case with the workplace tribunal. However, Mr Balthazaar was not a Centrelink employee and his application to stop the bullying barely got started. Mr Balthazaar told the Commission that Centrelink paid him to be the full-time carer for his disabled daughter and this made him legally an employee, outworker or volunteer. After disputes about his entitlement to welfare payments Mr Balthazaar went to the tribunal. Lawyers for Centrelink stymied the case before the tribunal could even establish whether Mr Balthazaar was being bullied, the fact that he did not work at Centrelink meant he could not be the victim of workplace bullying. The case was thrown out.
The FWC has handed down its first decision in BD (2014) FWC 1019, the complainant applied to the FWC for a stop bullying order. The Commission dismissed the complaint because the application form was incomplete and the complainant failed to supply the minimum necessary details even after being prompted by the FWC. This may be reassuring to employers for 2 reasons. First it shows that the FWC intends to respond quickly to its workplace bullying workload and second, while the FWC intends to provide redress to employees it does not extend to taking action on defective or incomplete applications.
Australia’s biggest construction union has been hit with an ‘unprecedented’ $1.25 million fine for illegally blocking workers from Melbourne building sites. The CFMEU was fined and ordered to pay costs for ignoring court orders, which outlawed the blockades. Justice Cavanough said the contempt of court was serous, so much so it was criminal contempt. The union began a blockade in August 2012 stopping workers from entering for about two weeks and choking peak hour traffic. The Court said it should be clear that old-style bullying and intimidation has no place in a modern workplace or the broader union movement.
Engaging men in gender diversity is one of the primary hurdles facing women rising into leadership. Since the inception of the Male Champions of Change initiative the discussion around gender equality has moved beyond women to including men in high-level discussions. However, the next challenge is to engage young men starting their careers in the issue. These men are often blind to gender inequality. Gen Y men grew up seeing their mothers work. Young men ought to be active and conscious about gender biases. Largely as the beneficiary of the discrimination they need to consider how they can support women.
The Abbot government has backed down from proposed changes to workplace gender reporting requirements and has stated that existing arrangements will stay in place until April 2015. After that, the reporting bar to companies may be raised higher than companies that employ 100 employees. Only 5% of 13,000 of Australian companies are required to meet gender reporting requirements costing them about $9 million in total annually. Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson says that unless organisations are made to measure their progress on gender diversity by meeting specific targets, women would not be promoted into senior roles due to an ‘unconscious biases. Treasury has set a target for 35% of women to be in senior leadership positions by 2016.
The Republic of Lebanon is liable for damages following an adverse action claim by an Australian based consular employee. The employee was dismissed after she complained that her supervisor had bullied and sexually harassed her. No action was taken in relation to the complaint. The court concluded that the Republic was a national system employer as it fell within the limb of the statutory definition of national system employers, which refers to persons carrying on an activity in a Territory in Australia. As a consequence, the Act applied to the Republic in its employment of the plaintiff. The Court held the supervisor’s actions constituted discrimination on the basis of gender for the purposes of the general protections provisions of the Act, but did not fall within the definition of adverse action. The termination however, did fall within the definition of adverse action.