August 2013

26 August – 01 September 2013

Herald Sun

Workplace bullying is costing businesses billions of dollars every year. In a survey of 800 employees by Drake International, half of the respondents said they had witnessed bullying and 25% said they had been bullied. Bullying should not be confused with harassment. Dr Wyatt at the University of NSW said that harassment could be a single instance of offensive behaviour whereas bullying is a pattern of unreasonable behaviour. Workplace bullying cuts across all professions and at all levels, it can affect anyone.

The West Australian

A labour hire company is being taken to the Equal Opportunity Commission for asking female job applicants and workers about menstrual problems and whether they are pregnant. The Maritime Union of Australia claims the questions in the Skilled Group’s medical exam breach gender and disability discrimination laws. It also contained several other intrusive and offensive questions about mental health. There were also several questions about lifestyle such as whether workers drank alcohol, exercised less than two hours a week and whether they had been to the dentist recently. MUA will argue that Skilled is hiding behind these medical exams to reject workers for illegitimate reasons. There are clear laws against asking job applicants about pregnancy.

Brisbane Times

The managing director of Energy Australia made lewd jokes and commented on the weight of employees, a sacked executive has told the Federal Court. Ms Shea has claimed that she was wrongfully sacked from Energy Australia for highlighting a culture where sexual harassment was condoned, after alleging she was inappropriately touched by a company executive. The company says that Ms Shea lost her job as part of a necessary restructure. She also told the court that Mr McIndoe made regular inappropriate comments about women and even gifted a book that described sex acts to a staff member he was sleeping with. She said despite this she had a good working relationship with him until mid-2011 when she raised an allegation against the chief financial officer for touching her inappropriately on a work trip.

The Australian

Kate Shea has highlighted further behaviour at Energy Australia she believes demonstrates the culture of sexual harassment. She claims that one former executive pulled down the pants of a male employee in front of other staff members. Mr Gunst said a member of the human resources department was also forced to trail managing director Mr McIndoe at a company Christmas party to ensure he behaved himself.

Perth Now

Rivers boss, Mr Goodman, is again being accused of sexual harassment in court. It is alleged that he grabbed a young designer’s breast and bottom and forced her to model underwear. It is also alleged that he made Ms Robinson take photos of a naked colleague, despite her having complained to a supervisor. Mr Goodman denies these claims of sexual harassment. Ms Robinson said the first time Mr Goodman inappropriately touched her it left her petrified. She spoke to a colleague about it who then burst into tears saying she had ben subjected to similar behaviour, but worse.

ABC

In the sexual harassment case brought by Ms Shea it was alleged that she informed her managing director, Mr McIndoe that she planned to send a letter to Energy Australia’s parent company about the sexual harassment. The letter also included several allegations that Mr McIndoe had sexually harassed staff. The court has been told that Mr McIndoe regarded the letter as blackmail and the tried to sack her before offering her $500 000 to resign. When this was unsuccessful he orchestrated the restructuring of the company to make her position redundant. Company lawyers have told the court that Ms Shea’s accusations of sexual harassment were held to be unfounded after an internal investigation.

Sydney Morning Herald

Under the Coalition’s latest proposal working women would get 26 weeks parental leave at full replacement wage up to a maximum annual salary of $150 000 plus superannuation. The scheme would cost $5.5 billion a year, and would be partly funded by a 1.5% levy on large businesses. However, it has been very controversial and largely criticised as unaffordable and unrealistic. Paid parental leave will be one of the central issues in the upcoming election.

The Times of India

According to a survey of a corporate training firm 78% of workers have told their bosses to ‘go shove it’. The survey also looked at things employees wish they could tell their bosses, this included to not be a bully and not to ask for staff opinion and then ignore it. It also found that many employees said it would be nice to be thanked for the work they do.

News24

Two former Australian military cadets were found guilty over a sex broadcasting scandal on Skype. McDonald was also convicted of committing an act of indecency for his role, in which he filmed himself having sex with a female cadet and streamed it live via Skype to another room where four other male cadets watched. The victim did not realise she was being filmed. This case prompted an investigation into the sexist culture at ADFA and within the military.

Perth Now

How to deal with office bullies in 7 days:
Monday: Identify whether you are a victim of bullying. This is someone who suffers from repeated and intentional behaviour to cause distress and risk to their well-being. If you feel safe enough, approach the bully and let them know their behaviour is not acceptable.

Tuesday: If you are experiencing cyber bullying block and report the instigator.

Wednesday: Check the company’s policy on bullying and inform HR or a supervisor. Follow up to ensure something is being done.

Thursday: If you are being targeted in a social forum try not to show how much the bullying is having an impact. Calmly tell the bully you wont put up with the harassment, or ignore it and walk away.

Friday: Make sure you seek support because bullying can take a mental and physical toll.

Saturday: Make sure you hold on to evidence keep a diary of events including dates, times and witnesses, and print all emails or online communication.

Sunday: And remember that although leaving a job may not be easy, if it means less stress and a chance to put it behind you it might be the best solution.

19 – 25 August 2013

Sydney Morning Herald

Newsreader Sandra Sully has spoken out about her problem with ongoing bullying from a female colleague in the Ten newsroom. She didn’t report the bullying for fear she wouldn’t be believed. She describes the bully as a sneaky, devious saboteur who used her feminine wiles to present her as a demanding talent to their superiors. The bully has since been ordered to leave Sully alone.

Radio Australia

Australia’s new Race Discrimination Commissioner is focussed on developing strategies to help eliminate casual bigotry and cyber racism. He has said that about 20% of Australians report that they have experienced race hate talk and 11% report they have been excluded from the workplace or social activities on the basis of their skin colour or ethnicity. It must be recognised that racism is as much about impact as it is about intention. Racism has followed the same trend as bullying and has moved online.

Red Orbit

A study has recently found that adults who were bullied as a child were more likely to face serious illness, struggle to hold down a regular job and have poor social relationships. The team also found that bully-victims often end up turning to bullying themselves because they may lack the emotional control or support required to cope with their own psychological harm. This demonstrated how bullying can spread when it is left untreated. Both bullies and their victims are more than twice as likely to have difficulties keeping a job compared to those not involved in bullying.

Gay Star News

An extremist homophobic election pamphlet which was to be sent to the homes of 38 000 people in the Australian state of Tasmania has been seized by the post office. The pamphlet claimed that all same sex couples molest their own children. The author will most likely to be hauled before the anti-discrimination tribunal, he was running as the Independent candidate to try and become a senator for Tasmania.

Herald Sun

Australia is a nation of bystanders when it comes to bullying. Almost two thirds of adults admit they have been in a situation where they could have intervened but didn’t. Eight out of ten later regretted their decision. Dr Judith Slocombe said a cultural shift was needed so it was clear bullying should never be tolerated. She said that it was vital that bystanders felt safe if they spoke up. Dr Helen McGrath has also said that the experience of being bullied was often worse if nobody intervened.

The Leader

A mother is fuming after being told by the Australian Electoral Commission she could not change her lunch break on Election Day to breastfeed her six-month-old son. She had been offered a position as a polling officer at Grays Point on September 7 and was entitled to a 30-minute break. She requested to have her break split into three ten-minute intervals to be taken every two hours. This was denied by the AEC because they said it would not be fair on the other employees. People working at polling booths who require breaks to eat because of medical reasons are encouraged by the AEC to declare this before their shift starts. The Australian Breastfeeding Association is outraged by the incident.

International Business Times

According to data from ABS, men continue to earn more money than women in Australia. Men on average earn 17.53% more than women. The gap between the earnings of Australian men and women is considered to be the highest since 1994. The data also showed that men worked more hours than women on average, which would increase weekly earnings slightly. A research report by the Australian Council of Trade Unions said that Australia has one of the most sexist employment markets in the world with more women who are not promoted as often as men and consistently underpaid.

Canberra Times

Another federal public servant will be dismissed over his online activity. A Facebook page was set up in Canberra to support an embattled officer in the Department of Foreign Affairs. The department says the site has threatened and defamed staff. The employee at the centre of the row was suspended in February and is accused of being involved in the Facebook page called The Anti-Bullying and Discrimination League of Australia. He will now likely lose his job. It is believed that this will be the first case where a public servant will be dismissed for being involved in such a site.

MensXP

A survey has revealed that a fifth of female bosses shout and are verbally abusive at work, which makes working with them difficult. This may be because more and more women are encountering the stress and anxiety that comes with being in top positions.

Herald Sun

A security guard, Wolters, has received $364 000 compensation after her boss yelled at her and bullied her during a blackout. Ms Wolters has not worked in security since the frightening incident. The Court of Appeal unanimously found her employer, University of the Sunshine Coast, negligent in not fully investigating her complaints about the aggressive behaviour.

WA Today

Lookism has been criticised as a legitimate anti discrimination complaint in Victoria. It is argued that it can undermine serious complaints about sexism, racism, ageism and other complaints based on sexual orientation or disability. It is criticised as being too hard to determine what is a lookism complaint and what isn’t.

CCH

The Full Federal Circuit Court has ordered an employer to pay over $32 000 to an employee after it took unlawful action against her by issuing a warning letter, demoting, transferring and dismissing her because of her family responsibilities. W had informed her employer that she would need to leave work at 2.30pm one day in order to collect her son from school as previous arrangements had fallen through. W was informed that there was no one available to cover her and that the centre could not be closed and she would need to make alternative arrangements for her son. W still left the office and she was issued with a warning notice.

The court held that W’s obligation to ensure her son was collected from school was within the ambit of family or carer’s responsibilities and she had a workplace right to take unpaid leave due to an unexpected emergency. 3 days after the warning W was shifted to another centre, which she viewed as a demotion. The employer admitted that the decision to transfer W was motivated, by W’s personal circumstances. The court held that the change altered W’s position to her prejudice as it reduced her status and level of responsibility. It was also held that W’s demotion was a repudiation of her contract entitling her to treat the employment as having come to an end, and on that basis, a termination at the initiative of the employer.

Read full case

CCH

An employee whose Facebook posts undermined her case has found not to be unfairly dismissed. M worked as a pastry chef but wished to change careers. She discussed this with her employer and said that this would be her last day of work. However, she returned to do some casual work until the company told her that they had plans to recruit new staff and they needed to know whether she wanted to commit to employment with the bakery. M then made an unfair dismissal claim. The Full Bench said that this was not the case and M had resigned from her position. They looked at M’s Facebook posts, which supported this interpretation. The comments affirmed the employer’s versions of events.

Read full case

12 – 18 August 2013

International Business Times

Ms Nelson was fired because her boss found her attractive and believed that if he did not fire her he might end up having an affair. He was sued for sex discrimination at work. 68% of women believe that discrimination on the basis of gender exists in their workplace. Those who suffer from sex discrimination lose the morale and motivation to work for the company. This leads to a loss in productivity. Interviewers may tend to hesitate when hiring a woman who has a family as they are perceived as being more focused on family obligations then work commitments.

CCH

Labour force participation for over 60s has risen sharply in the last decade. There are a number of reasons for this increase including better health, financial strain arising from the cost of living and the inadequacy of superannuation. Age discrimination in employment continues to be the main barrier for older Australians who are looking for work.

The Courier

The Mental Health Council of Australia has called for mental health reform. They released an article, which focused on good mental health programs in the workplace and the huge productivity benefits for organisations that do more than just meet minimum requirements. They also released another article on the stigma and discrimination attached to mental illness and how this can have a devastating impact on people’s lives.

CCH

The Federal Circuit Court of Australia has found that two Virgin employees who claimed that they were subjected to adverse action for prohibited reasons were made redundant following a corporate restructure. Both employees were made redundant at the same time. However, both employees were successful in establishing that Virgin breached their contracts of employment by failing to comply with the company’s redundancy policy, which required consultation with the employees. Both employees were entitled to damages for breach of contract.

Perth Now

Former Equal opportunity Commissioner Yvonne Henderson has warned that women continue to suffer sexual harassment, but now increasingly from younger perpetrators. Reports of psychologically damaging behaviour have not abated and harassment is no longer the province of mainly older men and many offenders are in their 30s and 40s and in supervisory roles. She also said the pregnant women continue to experience discrimination. Harassment has also extended with the growth of technology and can include inappropriate instant messages and photographs.

Canberra Times

Following reports by the Australian Bureau of Statistics it is clear that ideas of ‘women’s work’ still remain. Women still spend six times as long as men doing laundry, three times as long doing housework and more than twice as long on food preparation and cleaning up. This is a result of attitudes that these jobs are ‘naturally’ for one sex. Even when workplaces have family friendly policies, men are unlikely to contribute to household management. Less than a quarter of surveyed fathers worked flexibly for family reasons. Many women still suffer the double burden, the demands of anxieties of employment and housework.

HC Online

A former employee of a US based company had thousands of her personal emails read by her employer after returning a phone provided to her by the company. Ms Lazette failed to clear her passwords from the phone resulting in her supervisor gaining information about her family, health, career and finances. Under Australian law such conduct would be lawful if the employer had previously warned the employee that they might monitor or access private emails. However, an employer would not be able to use this information to discriminate against the employee. Employers should have policies governing employees use of their computer and IT facilities, which ties in with equal opportunity and anti discrimination and bullying policies.

Smart Company

The Immigration Department has been granted permission by the Federal Circuit Court to dismiss an employee who regularly tweeted critical comments about detention policies. The employee had set up a Twitter account, which did not reveal her name or job. An investigation recommended that the employee be dismissed for breaches of the Australian Public Service code of conduct. Banjeri, the employee took the matter to court, defending herself on the basis of the protected right to freedom of speech. The court held that Australians had no ‘unfettered implied right of political expression’ and it did not provide a licence to breach employment contracts. Banjeri also made accusations of bullying, harassment and mobbing and said the dismissal was retaliation against her for making a complaint.

Smart Company

More small businesses need to start addressing not only sexual harassment in the workplace, but domestic violence among its employees. Elizabeth Broderick has said employers need to start ramping up their attempts at addressing domestic violence. Initiatives like flexible work hours and allowing employees to keep a locked bag at work will help protect these women. She says that domestic violence blurs the line between work and private lives. If workforce participation among women increases by 6% the GDP will increase by $25 billion.

The Age

Mining workers now earn almost twice as much as workers in manufacturing. Soaring mining and construction wages have widened the gender gap in earnings. Men working in WA now have the nation’s highest pay packets. The average male wage rose 56% while for women it rose 53%. This was largely because of fast growth in male-dominated industries, mining, construction, transport and the utilities, compared with below average growth in the female dominated industries of education, health and welfare. Nationally men on average now get paid 26% more than women, up from 24% a decade ago. But the gap shrank everywhere in the southeast, only to be outweighed by the big rises in Queensland, WA and the NT.

Smart Company

Tony Abbott has brushed aside his comments on the sex appeal of a female colleague as a ‘daggy dad moment’. He made the comment referring to the Liberal candidate for Lindsay. The comment raises question about whether it is ok to remark on the appearance of colleagues in relation to sexuality. It may be that referring to the appearance or sexuality of a colleague in the workplace could be perceived as sexual discrimination. Sex discrimination is a difference of treatment of men to women and a manager is going into dangerous territory if they describe a woman’s appearance in this way.

Sydney Morning Herald

An independent inquiry into workplace bullying at CSIRO has released a first phase report that found no major problem of workplace bullying. However, it did identify areas of concerns, such as a lack of common sense and empathy in procedures handling complaints. CSIRO has been issued with 34 recommendations, which focus on a change in the way in which complaints by staff are managed. It recommends that enforcement of the code should be more consistent and there should be the same level of intolerance no matter the level at which the complaint occurs at. The CEO of CSIRO has endorsed the report.

CCH

The Full Federal Circuit Court has ordered an employer to pay over $32 000 to an employee after it took unlawful action against her by issuing a warning letter, demoting, transferring and dismissing her because of her family responsibilities. W had informed her employer that she would need to leave work at 2.30pm one day in order to collect her son from school as previous arrangements had fallen through. W was informed that there was no one available to cover her and that the centre could not be closed and she would need to make alternative arrangements for her son. W still left the office and she was issued with a warning notice.

The court held that W’s obligation to ensure her son was collected from school was within the ambit of family or carer’s responsibilities and she had a workplace right to take unpaid leave due to an unexpected emergency. 3 days after the warning W was shifted to another centre, which she viewed as a demotion. The employer admitted that the decision to transfer W was motivated, by W’s personal circumstances. The court held that the change altered W’s position to her prejudice as it reduced her status and level of responsibility. It was also held that W’s demotion was a repudiation of her contract entitling her to treat the employment as having come to an end, and on that basis, a termination at the initiative of the employer.

BRW

Myer chief executive has said that the best way to encourage women into leadership positions is to allow companies the freedom to come up with their own internal processes. They should not be forced into mandated paid parental leave schemes and quotas. Almost 80% of Myer’s staff are female and 66% of women employed at Myer hold a leadership role and 33% of the company’s board of directors are women. The CEO said that it was better to have companies adopt the right policy rather than a forced policy. Myer has recently set a target for 50% of all female candidates to be part of the company’s succession plans and for 70% to return to work after taking maternity leave.

5 – 11 August 2013

HC Online

The American Medical Association has classified obesity as a disease. Obese Americans may now be recognised as having a disability, which would obtain certain rights in regards to termination and discrimination in the workplace. Currently Australian law classifies a disability as physical, intellectual, psychiatric, learning or emotional disorders and employers are still able to hire and terminate employees based on the inherent requirements of a particular role. Walsh believes classifying obesity as a disease would have very little impact on current workplace policies.

HC Online

Research by the 100% Project has found unconscious bias prevents men from accessing flexible working arrangements. Both men and women said they felt their careers might suffer if they asked for flexible working arrangements and many perceived these arrangements as appropriate for women only. This means that men are less likely to access work-life balance initiatives offered by their workplaces and women are more likely to continue to carry the burden of maintaining a home.

9 News

Unions NSW will launch a new charter in an attempt to stamp out bullying in the workplace. This comes in the wake of anti-bullying changes to the Fair Work Act and will explain 5 necessary steps to create a bully free workplace.

News.com.au

Virgin Australia has been cleared of unlawful discrimination after two former employees claimed their pregnancies cost them their jobs. Ms Vandeven argued her job was terminated when her female boss learned of her pregnancy. But the judge accepted that her manager was not even aware that she was pregnant at the time of her dismissal. All claims of discrimination were dismissed although Virgin was found to have breached its contract of employment.

ABC

A report released by the Australian Human Rights Commission shows millions of dollars could be saved in the justice system if people with a disability were treated more fairly. The report found that many people with a disability were unnecessarily put through the courts and sent to jail when early intervention programs would have better social and economic outcomes.

The Guardian

AHRC said 87% of young people in NSW prisons have a mental health condition and are six to nine times more likely to be in prison than those without a disability. The report found that early intervention support could significantly reduce the number of youths with mental illness in the justice system as well as the financial costs. Graeme Innes has said early disability support is needed in education, housing, family and welfare.

Herald Sun

The Independent Education Union (IEU) is blaming a culture clash for its claim the Islamic College of South Australia is failing to adhere to workplace laws, the argument arose between an Islamic school and a teacher’s union over a dress code requiring that all female staff wear a headscarf. The staff member was dismissed last year when she breached the dress code by failing to wear a scarf. The matter has been taken to Fair Work Australia.

News.com.au

More than 200 Port Adelaide Enfield Council employees say they have experienced bullying by management. The ASU surveyed the council members as part of its ongoing investigation into bullying. The Mayor has disregarded the claims as something that happens when you work in a big organisation and that if there had been any genuine cases the union would have already taken action. Concerns raised by the survey included:
• Bullying management through reviewing positions, dropping pay levels and setting unrealistic targets
• Experiencing verbal abuse, threats, excessive criticism
• People feeling targeted for speaking about issues of concern regarding work conditions

Smart Company

A recent survey by Employment Office of 330 Australian employees found 63% said chatter in the workplace had gone too far and negatively impacted on their productivity. 4% said they handled the excessive chitchat in an angry confrontation, although most people just asked others to stop interrupting them. However, the survey concluded that managing office chitchat was not always the responsibility of employers but employees. Business owners should empower their employees to handle excessive chatter.

Smart Company

An employee in the US was fired for posting his cheque on Instagram, causing employers to update their social media policies. Wade Groom posted his cheque on Instagram while lamenting his relatively low rate of pay. He was approached by HR two weeks later and told his post infringed the company’s confidentiality agreements.

Smart Company

A group of 22 male executives have pledged to push for more women to speak at conferences in an attempt to make women more visible in corporate life. Elizabeth Broderick works with a group of high-profile men as part of the Male Champions of Change group. They have agreed to go beyond the ASX corporate governance requirements when it comes to gender reporting.

News.com.au

Rising stress levels, competition in workplaces and inappropriate use of social media are fuelling bullying amongst South Australian workers. There are also reports of women returning from maternity leave being bullied, especially if they request flexible working arrangements.

New Matilda

Sexual harassment in the workplace has been unlawful in Australia for nearly 30 years. However, women continue to be disproportionality affected. Ruth Ostrow has been writing about harassment since the 1990s and believes that political correctness has led to the demise of flirting. She looked at the case of Shellharbour Golf Club v Wheeler in 1999 where the president of the Golf Club rubbed his erect penis against W’s thigh at the Christmas party. When W made complaints they were trivialised and she was demeaned by open taunts and innuendo about her sexual probity. Ostrow believes that feminism has gone too far and she has recently come out and said that ‘I must be allowed to dance close to someone and inadvertently get an erection without being called a deviant; to put my marriage before workplace etiquette; to watch porn in the privacy of my own home and to be a boss with a droll sense of humour without being labelled a workplace bully.’ In response Helen Pringle has said attitudes like these make it unsurprising that awareness of the character and injury of sexual harassment has gone backward.

The West Australian

A new law that requires Muslim women to remove a burqa to prove their identity to police has been introduced in the WA parliament. The proposed Bill will require a person to remove headwear or do other things to facilitate the officer being able to confirm a person’s identity. Officers will also be given powers to detain a person while they comply.

Herald Sun

The Victorian Equal Opportunity Commission has revealed that workers are increasingly lodging discrimination claims based on their looks. This includes claims based on the grounds of weight, tattoos, hairstyle or even body odour. Researchers have found that good-looking men receive a salary of $81 750 on average, compared to $49 600 for men with below average looks. Maurice Blackburn, an employment lawyer said that ‘lookism’ might be hard to prove. He also said that workers outside Victoria could claim discrimination on the grounds of disability, which might cover appearance such as scars or birthmarks.

ABC News

Race is still the number one area of discrimination complaints in the Northern Territory says Sally Sievers, Anti-Discrimination Commissioner. The NT Commission has just celebrated the 20th anniversary of anti-discrimination and is looking at reviewing the legislation. This may include discrimination on the basis of looks. She also says that age is a growing area of discrimination.

Herald Sun

A Wall Street regulator took her workplace crush too far when she ignored the fact her sexual come-ons were unwelcome and retaliated with pornographic emails. Ms Chan sent Mr Small romantic emails, bought him cards, an initialled coffee mug and golf balls, all of which Mr Small refused and ignored. Ms Chan then harassed 5 co-workers about his relationship status and for his cell phone number on Valentine’s Day 2012. After this Small approached HR and they told Chan that her behaviour was unwelcome. Chan ignored this and was later dismissed. After she was fired she signed up the HR manager for unwanted pornographic magazine subscriptions using his work email. She is now facing a lawsuit.

News.com.au

A state government employee who was sacked for allegedly sending inappropriate emails including crude jokes and photographs of replica penises and a woman’s breasts has been compensated more than $17 000. However, Mr Lucas will not be given his job back because his employer’s complaints were legitimate and long-standing, said the Industrial Relations Commission. Mr Lucas did not dispute that he sent the emails, but argued he had not created them only forwarded them to known recipients. The employer reached the view that dismissal was the appropriate sanction and Mr Lucas was not given an opportunity to respond. There was no consideration to any mitigating factors that might have supported a lesser sanction and the IRC concluded that dismissal in these circumstances was harsh.

29 July – 4 August 2013

CCH

The NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal awarded damages of $40,500 to an employee after his employer unlawfully discriminated against him on the ground of disability. His employer refused to permit him to return to work and earn his income because mutually agreed work arrangements were not in place.

The employee, S worked for the Department of Education and Communities for just over five years when he was booked off work following an unsatisfactory meeting with two of his superiors. His doctor diagnosed him with an adjustment disorder with anxiety as a result of workplace injury. S was awarded workers compensation for the psychological injury. In 2009 his doctor determined that he was fit to return to work. S’s employer decided that it would not allow S to return to his previous work location but move him to another office. S refused to work there because it placed him in close proximity to the two managers who had contributed to his psychological injury. The tribunal found this to be reasonable. After further negotiation it was permitted that S could return to work at Parramatta if he signed the return to work plan prepared by the employer. S refused to sign the work plan and he was told he would be placed on unpaid sick leave until he signed the document. He eventually returned to work in 2011.

NSWADT found that the employer unlawfully discriminated against S by refusing to allow him to perform his duties.

Link to Smith v Department of Education and Communities [2013]

News.com.au

Australia’s casual workers face increased job anxiety and risk of sexual harassment. Casual workers who make complaints about unfair treatment or sexual harassment are being left off the roster. Less than a third of Australian workers say they feel secure in their job. Causal employees are at a greater risk of sexual harassment. Imogen Beynon says they become targets for sexual harassment because they are less likely to complain about it for fear of losing work.

Perth Now

Men in male-dominated jobs are paid one third more than women for just being male. Australia has one of the most sexist job markets in the world. Women are still paid less than men across all industries. Even in jobs where there are more women than men, men are still paid $151 more a week. Even in the same occupation group with the same skill level women still go home with less.

The Australian

Rising stress levels, competition in workplaces and inappropriate use of social media is leading to bullying amongst South Australian workers. There are also reports of bullying of women returning from maternity leave. In a recent case a nurse resigned after discovering colleagues were using Facebook to make jokes and racist comments about her behind her back. Dr Moira Jenkins also said there is a higher risk of bullying in competitive work environments.

News.com.au

A retired magistrate says he was speaking ‘off-the-cuff’ when he told a female clerk she needed a spanking and that he never visualised carrying out the act. Mr Baldino is defending himself against a sexual harassment claim filed by Rebecca Ramstrom. He insisted that he was only making a light-hearted joke when he said Ms Ramstrom needed a spanking. Ms Ramstrom claims that between 2008-2010, Mr Baldino subjected her to repeated sexual harassment that escalated from lewd comments to physical contact. She told the tribunal that he encouraged her to drink in his presence, suggested she ride waterslides naked and made sexual comments about food. She also alleged that he groped her breasts while pretending to look at her necklace and smacked her on the buttocks with a court file. The hearing continues.

Sydney Morning Herald

A tribunal has ruled the alleged bullying of a manager at the Institute of Psychiatry was improperly dealt with. The Health Ministry unlawfully sought to have the woman undergo psychological assessment and wrongfully barred her from returning to her job. A Public Service Commission survey has also found systematic bullying in the NSW health system. 7 of the 10 most bullied government agencies were local health districts. Ms George the manager of corporate and business services at the psychiatry institute took sick leave after alleged intimidation and harassment by the director. When she returned to work after being cleared by a doctor she was told to leave the building and that she had no right to be there. The industrial commission ruled that she had been dealt with unfairly and unjustly.

HC Online

Employees are increasingly accessing social media while at work. A survey of 1105 workers found that 75% of workers access social media from personal devices at least once a day, with 60% accessing multiple times. While this can be useful to connect with clients and colleagues, employers are unable to control employee behaviour. This is occurring around increased numbers of bullying via social media and unions are pushing for social media to be included as part of a draft code of practice on bullying. False statements may also expose an employer to a defamation claim and confidential and proprietary information can also be disseminated if posted by an employee. It is essential for workplaces to have a strong social medial policy.

Smart Company

Rice Warner Actuaries will pay female staff a higher superannuation rate than their male colleagues. This is an attempt at boosting the retirement savings of women and to bridge the gap between male and female savings. Women in the company will be paid superannuation at a rate, which is 2% higher than their male colleagues. Rice Warner consulted with the AHRC on the package and received the tick of approval. Ms Broderick said that 30% of the staff were female but the males in the company expressed strong support for the initiative during consultation talks. Women at Rice Warner will also be given 18 weeks parental leave at full pay, be paid full superannuation during this time and continue to receive full superannuation payments if unpaid leave is taken for up to 12 months. This 2% increase is likely to position female retirement savings closer to that of males, rather than exceed it.

Smart Company

A woman who argued she was unjustly accused of bullying was unfairly dismissed according to Fair Work Commission. They also found businesses need to guard against creating workplace environments of excessive sensitivity. The Commission found that Ms Harris, an employee of WorkPac, was accused of bullying by another employee Ms Maye. The bullying allegedly took the form of swearing, being insensitive and embarrassing in front of other employees. Harris denied the interactions took place at all and Maye did not provide any documentation about the incidents. FWC held they saw no reasons why the employer formed the view that Harris was guilty of bullying. The FWC said that while employers must pursue inappropriate behaviour they need to be mindful that every employee who claims to have been hurt, embarrassed or humiliated does not mean the offending employee is guilty of bullying.

Lexology

The Federal Court has ordered indemnity costs against a successful applicant in a sexual harassment claim following her rejection of reasonable offers of compromise. This involved the case of Richardson v Oracle where Justice Buchanan said he was satisfied that the employer was vicariously liable for the sexual harassment by another male sales representative. During this time Oracle made several offers to settle which Mr Richardson rejected. Buchanan J was satisfied that she rejected these offers only because they were inadequate in monetary terms and she was awarded costs. Employers should be aware that offers of compromises could be effective mechanisms for costs protections even if the defence claim is ultimately unsuccessful. However, this option is very rarely used.

News.com.au

Female students are at twice the risk of being sexually assaulted at a civilian university than at the ADFA. An audit of Australia’s only military university found that 27% of female students experienced some form of sexual harassment during the past year. But a recent survey of the civilian sector found that 67% or more than 1000 of the 1500 female students surveyed had experienced an unwanted sexual experience. 17% of those reported they had been raped and 31% said they had sex without giving consent. Another 36% had endured other unwanted sexual experiences and 35% had been groped or inappropriately touched and 13% had experienced someone exposing their sexual organs without permission. But only 3% reported the assault or harassment.

The Herald

Tim Soutphommasane has been appointed Australia’s new Race Discrimination Commissioner.

NZ Herald

A GP who visited a patient at work and pulled his pants down asking her to perform a sex act on him has breached his duty of care. He had been treating the woman for depression. The GP was accused of asking the women to lean over a table while he made inappropriate sexual gestures during a consultation at a medical centre. It was later that day that he showed up at her work.

The West Australian

The family of a nine-year-old disabled girl are suing the Education Department for alleged discrimination against their daughter. They are alleging that she was treated less favourably and this led to her being unable to attend her school. The Education Department denies the allegations. Tahlia has several health problems, including with her speech, limited vision and epilepsy and needs assistance to eat, walk and go to the toilet. They are alleging that Tahlia was isolated from her peers and that the education assistants did not have adequate training to assist Tahlia.

News.com.au

Former Equal Opportunity Commissioner Yvonne Henderson has warned that women continue to suffer sexual harassment, and increasingly from younger perpetrators. She said many offenders were in there 30s and 40s and in supervisory roles. Harassment has also evolved with technology allowing it to take the form of unwanted sexually explicit images sent, or shown to women on mobile phones and computers.

CCH

The Federal Circuit Court of Australia held that an employer did not take adverse action when it made an employee redundant just before she was to take parental leave. The applicant S had commenced working for Symantec in 2006 and had an impeccable record. In 2011 S announced that she was taking maternity leave and arrangements were made to cover her workload. She was later advised in February 2012 that her position was no longer available due to a company restructure. She was advised that she could seek redeployment within the company however; there were no positions S found suitable. S argued that Symantec had taken adverse action against her based on the fact that she was pregnant. Symantec argued that she was made redundant due to cost-cutting initiatives. The FCCA found that the evidence before it failed to disclose that Symantec took adverse action against S.

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