22 – 28 July 2013
At an inquest into the investigation of Gavin Woods’ death, a coroner was told that workplace bullying was a contributing cause. His partner said that in her view workplace bullying was a significant contributing factor to Gavin’s death. The court heard how he filed a WorkCover claim alleging harassment and bullying behaviour by the principal at Whitfield State School, before his body was found in bushland in June 2011. Mr Wood’s claim was denied with an Ethical Standards investigation finding there was not enough information provided to raise suspicion of misconduct.
A male nurse has lost his discrimination case in a fight for maternity leave to care for his first child. Mr Tung brought a claim against the State Government after he was refused paid maternity and special leave to look after his first child. Mr Tung’s wife could not get paid parental leave as she was still running her hairdressing business while on maternity leave. Mr Tung was to be the primary carer but was told that he was only entitled to a week’s paid spousal leave. Peter Roney QC said there was no sex discrimination because Mr Tung was not eligible for maternity leave and there were no exceptional circumstances for him to receive special leave
The culture of the Australia Defence Force is improving says Elizabeth Broderick. The ADFA has improved its culture by making officer-training institutions more inclusive for women members. But an Australian Human Rights Commission audit has still found ongoing incidence of sexual harassment and misconduct. Defence has introduced a range of reforms including programs to better supervise cadets and an annual Unacceptable Behaviour Survey. However, Ms Broderick said that more attention was still needed in relation to sexual ethics. General Hurley said there needed to be a new approach with an emphasis on the care of victims.
A warning by Elizabeth Broderick has come as ADFA launches a fundamental shift in the way it handles reports of sexual offences. She has said that an external expert in sexual ethics must be engaged to educate cadets and midshipmen on a more mature understanding of respectful and healthy relationships, attitudes and behaviour. However, she said the fact that support officers now live in accommodation blocks to supervise and provide guidance to new cadets is a positive move.
A study done on 114 health care facility workers in the US demonstrated how often their co-workers engaged in cruel behaviour towards one another. It found that unattractive workers were treated more harshly than attractive employees. Employees who were judged to be unattractive were also treated more sternly than others who were attractive. An unattractive person may be blamed for making errors more frequently than a good-looking one.
Unions are pushing to broaden Safe Work’s code definition of bullying. Practical jokes, crude or offensive messages and initiation rites should be deemed bullying according to trade unions. The ACTU’s submission says that workplace bullying is not just a matter of one worker bullying another but is often a product of the work culture. The Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers of Australia have recommended that the draft code should be amended to include bullying by electronic means, not just through social media. AMWU says that in some workplaces there is an entrenched managerial style, which validates bullying behaviours as the way to interact.
Mark Dreyfus has formally referred the inquiry into Legal Barriers for People with Disabilities to the ALRC. The inquiry will consider whether Commonwealth laws and legal frameworks create barriers to people with disability exercising their rights and legal capacity.
Graeme Innes, Disability Discrimination Commissioner says that an inquiry into discrimination in Australia’s justice system will help address problems. Mr Innes has been appointed to an inquiry by the ALRC to examine legal barriers for people with disabilities. Mr Innes said there are many instances where people are making decisions for people when with the appropriate support they would be capable of making their own decisions.
A Virgin flight attendant sacked for not conforming to the required hairstyle has won his case and got his job back. The airline had struggled with Taleski to comply with the grooming manual for 15 months before dismissing him. Taleski won his case for unfair dismissal in January and Virgin launched an appeal. The appeal has been dismissed. Virgin was ordered to give Taleski his job back.
Gender discrimination will be removed from Medicare as transgender and intersex people will not have to disclose or explain their gender in order to receive medical treatment. This is a result of some services being available only for men or women. Under the changes all references to gender will be removed from the descriptions of Medicare service.
A study from SANE Australia reports that stigma and discrimination against people with mental illness is widespread, harmful to recovery and is a major barrier to participation in society. The report concludes that a national strategy is vital and should be a non-negotiable component of mental health policies and plans. The stigma against people with mental illness can be destructive, hurtful and excluding. Attitudes are worse surrounding schizophrenia and other psychotic illnesses. The report recommended that the strategy be comprehensive, targeted, long term and well funded. It should be inclusive of people living with mental illness. One in five Australians is affected by mental illness every year.
A paper released by the Australian Institute outlines the social, economic and cultural features that leave women worse off in retirement than men. The 17.5% gender pay gap has a huge effect on the superannuation accumulation capacity of women and leaves them lagging behind men at retirement. There is a range of factors to blame from career breaks, to unpaid work, caring responsibilities and flexible work. Women end up with just over half of the superannuation savings of men according to the AHRC. The difference shows that no matter how women structure their working life they are destined for superannuation inequality. Author, Cameron, says that the current system merely exacerbates women’s financial disadvantage in retirement. Given no super contributions are made on parental leave, the value of unpaid work is ignored.
Research done by the AHRC reveals 71% of people feel that age discrimination is common in Australia. Research shows that while age discrimination is rife in the workplace across the country reportage of discrimination is very low. Professor Rice says this is because older people are reluctant to make a noise. There are laws to prevent this type of discrimination and they work in two ways. Informally when a complaint is made to the HRC or formally where a case is heard in a courtroom.
NSW Premier O’Farrell says he is unsurprised by figures showing the public health system is bogged down with unacceptable levels of workplace bullying. He believes that the government’s anti-bullying hotline and changes to workplace codes of conduct will drive down bullying rates. Almost three quartes of staff at Central Coast Health District said they had witnessed bullying last year.
A large number of Australian businesses prefer male employees without children or relationships. Research found 38% believed men are better employees than women, while only 19% of employers prefer female workers. A survey of 500 Australian employers also found 40% prefers workers who do not have children. Elizabeth Broderick said this was distressing because it suggested that a large proportion of businesses would use this model in their organisations.
Elizabeth Broderick has warned that more small businesses need to start addressing not only sexual harassment in the workplace but domestic violence among its employees. Broderick said that employers might not initially view warning signs of domestic violence as what they are. She said that women who are victims of domestic violence are often threatened and in harmful situations which can cause them to be late or inadvertently break workplace policies. She says that domestic violence blurs the distinction between home and work life.
Swan v Monash Law Book Co-Operative  VSC 326
– Bullied employee awarded $600 000
Fair Work Amendment Act 2013
Kym Valentine, a former Neighbours star, is suing producers of the show for ‘pain, hurt, suffering and humiliation’ as a result of sex and disability discrimination. This raises questions about an employer’s responsibility to sick employees. Legal experts say it is within their legal rights to terminate an employee on a fixed term contract after three months if they can’t meet the requirements of their job. Valentine took indefinite leave to treat what was believed to be depression. Then when her contract expired it was not renewed. It is important that employers ensure that all workers are fit to attend work each day. The situation would be different if an employee is on an ongoing contract.
The Federal Court described the failed sex discrimination action by a Perth accountant as a waste of time. Gilmour J said that Ms Gaffney had not presented any evidence that went even close to supporting her allegations.
15 – 21 July 2013
An employer was ordered to pay $300 000 in damages after failing to adequately respond to bullying complaints from an employee over a five year period.
Ms Swan commenced employment as an assistant at Legibooks in August 2002. She had only one other colleague Mr Cowell who was her manager. In March 2003 Ms Swan expressed concern to the Board of Directors about Mr Cowell. She said she felt humiliated, intimidates and threatened. Mr Cowell had demonstrated violent behaviour towards her and threatened to dismiss her even though he did not have that authority. The Board assured her that Mr Cowell could not dismiss her. They decided to develop written contracts with policies and procedures as to conduct in the workplace. The Board acknowledged that Mr Cowell’s actions might have a negative impact on Ms Swan’s health. Ms Swan then decided not to make a formal complaint. However, the Board did not follow through with its decisions and Mr Cowell continued with his bullying behaviour. In July 2007 Ms Swan suffered a breakdown.
Supreme Court of Victoria
Ms Swan bought an action for negligence against her employer. The Court held that the risk of injury to Ms Swan was reasonably foreseeable especially because the Board had acknowledged the potential impact of Mr Cowell’s behaviour. Dixon J found that the employer breached its duty of care because it failed to define the relations between Mr Cowell and Ms Swan and did not articulate its expectations regarding conduct in the workplace. The employer also failed to implement policies and procedures against bullying and to carry out an investigation into Mr Cowell’s behaviour. Ms Swan was awarded $300 000 in damages for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.
The FWC from the 1 January 2014 will have new jurisdiction to enable workers to seek orders stopping alleged workplace bullying. There have also been amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act, which will extend unlawful discrimination to include sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status. Penny Threw examines the importance of these recent changes.
New anti-bullying regime
Workers who reasonably believe they may have been bullied at work can have their case heard before the FWC. It is expected that this will significantly increase the workload of the FWC. Part 6-4B of the FW Act provides that a worker is bullied at work if an individual or group of individuals repeatedly behaves unreasonably towards the worker and the behaviour creates a risk to health and safety. The scope of the new laws is extremely broad and no longer applies to employees but to ‘workers’. This is a broader definition and covers more than just employees. By comparison the definition of ‘constitutionally covered business’ for which a worker must have been working at the time that the alleged bullying occurred is comparatively narrow. This excludes reasonable management action carried out in a reasonable manner. The FWC must also commence dealing with an application within 14 days of it being made.
Sex Discrimination Act
Amendments to the Act will make discrimination unlawful on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status in areas of public life. Discrimination on the ground of sexual preference is already prohibited at federal level under s31(b) of the Australian Human Rights Act 1986. The legislative amendments also extend to protect same sex de facto couples from discrimination. There will no longer be an exemption available to religious organisations in respect of discrimination on the ground of intersex status. These amendments are in line with the Australian Government Guidelines on the Recognition of Sex and Gender.
School staff have been paid out more than $10 million over five years due to distressing and violent incidents in Queensland state schools. Teachers and principals have been physically assaulted, sexually assaulted, spat on bitten and scratched by students and have witnessed co-workers and students being assaulted. They say that the documented claims are just the tip of the iceberg with many more not lodging claims. Overall 442 accepted psychological claims were lodged with Work Cover. Another 491 claims were denied and than later accepted.
The recent changes to the Fair Work system has come as a huge disappointment to business. These changes include expanded parental leave rights, forced consultation on changes to rosters, penalty rate principles enshrined in law, a national bullying jurisdiction and expanded union right of entry to lunch rooms. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry says the Government has overstretched the business community’s burden. This will be to the detriment of financial sustainability and international competitiveness.
Ms Greig, who was involved in the ‘Royal hospital prank’ that lead to the death of a British nurse, will take her employer Southern Cross Austereo to the FWC for failing to provide a safe workplace. This follows a string of incidents involving radio stations, including the sacking of Howard Sattler after he questioned Julia Gillard on air about her partner’s sexuality. Bryan Belling says that radio shock jocks are now being brought to book. This may have a substantial impact on the radio landscape.
The Australian FW Act makes it illegal to discriminate against a pregnant employee. It provides penalties for violations of up to $51 000 for a corporation and $10 200 for an individual. The Australian government is planning on going further to protect pregnant women in the workplace. It is alleged that some employers in the retail industry have refused to permit an extra bathroom break. Proposed laws will seek to require employers to transfer pregnant employees to a so-called safe job for their risk period. It there is no safe job available then the employee will be entitled to unpaid leave if she has 12 months tenure service.
Employers are increasingly using Facebook to screen job applicants. A study from North Carolina University shows that those companies may have a fundamental misunderstanding of online behaviour and may be eliminating desirable job candidates. Companies often scan an applicant’s Facebook profile to see whether there is evidence of drug or alcohol use as an indicator of an applicant who is irresponsible. The study found that there is no significant correlation between this and an individual’s willingness to post about drug/alcohol use on Facebook. Also applicants who were extroverts were much more likely to post about drug or alcohol use. However, participants who rated high on both agreeableness and conscientiousness were very unlikely to badmouth or insult other people on Facebook.
A NSW mayor and councillors are being investigated over allegations of corruption and threats against a senior manager. This includes leaking a report, which showed the manager had access to porn on a council computer. The ICAC is investigating several of the councillors and the counsel assisting in the inquiry said that there was no suggestion that the manager had done anything illegal by accessing porn.
Bullying is increasingly recognised as a serious issue in the workplace. Recently the Victorian Supreme Court ordered an employer pay a bullied employee $600 000. The new amendments to the FWA have introduced ‘stop bullying orders’. These will enable workers who reasonably believe they have been bullied to apply for an order. The commission will then be able to make an order stopping someone, generally the alleged bully, from behaving a certain way. An order can be made if there has been bullying and there is a risk of it continuing. The simple fact that such a claim is made in a public forum, rather than having been dealt with internally may be grounds for a claimant to allege inactivity on the part of the employer.
Is Aussie banter bullying? In male dominated industries such as, engineering, mining, oil and gas, banter can often venture into derogatory realms. Banter is often seen as part of a group dynamic and is more often than not at the expense of someone else. If something is said about it, it is normally disregarded as oversensitivity. However, it is important to ensure that banter isn’t a mask for racist, sexist or any other discriminatory mindset. It is no longer acceptable when it becomes personally defeating, demoralising and is taken a step too far.
A 16-year-old labourer at a engineering firm has won a $35 000 payout after being sexually harassed and abused by his boss and workmates who claimed they were engaging in banter. Staff called the teen lazy and useless and asked him whether he was gay and made sexually explicit references. The teen often hid in the toilet because he was too upset. This took a significant toll on his physical and mental health. Things came to a head when the company boss questioned him about his sexuality and when the young employee objected he was told that if ‘he did not like it here then he could p*** off’. The young worker left and he has now won his case. He was awarded $12 000 compensation for significant humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to his feelings and on-going health. Ms Hickey ruled that such language and behaviour of a sexual nature went beyond the bounds of reasonable banter that could be expected even in the all-male environment of an engineering workshop.
Participation of women in the workforce aged between 25-44 drops significantly. The poor management of maternity leave is a key factor contributing to the loss of female talent in Australian business. One in four women say they return to work after maternity leave because they are afraid not to. On average women spend 8 months on maternity leave and have little communication with their employer. This is a long time to be away from your workplace. Women should be kept well informed and engaged while on maternity leave. This isn’t just the responsibility of employers and women should ask for communication during this time.
Roy Morgan Research reports that over the past decade the number of Australians with a university degree jumped from 18% to 26.5%. Women completing tertiary education have increased to 26%. However, the proportion of men and women in the workforce has barely changed over the past decade. Although the percentage of women in professional roles increased while the proportion of women in home duties dropped. Three quarters of all Australians who earn over $80 000 a year are men. Regardless of how sensitive to social injustice men are, they do little to change the system of dominance.
The release of Safe Work Australia’s draft code of practice on workplace bullying has sparked employers fears they may be forced to monitor social media of their employees, including outside business hours. This could itself be bullying behaviour if employees are subject to excessive scrutiny.
Mickey Arthur ex coach of the Australian cricket team is suing Cricket Australia for racial discrimination after being dismissed. Proceedings were filed with the FWC last week on a number of grounds including unfair dismissal and that he was scapegoated as a result of his race. He is seeking up to $4 million in compensation.
The Australian Services Union says it is investigating multiple claims of bullying at Port-Enfield Council. Members of the staff at the council have been making complaints about alleged bullying and unusual business practices. A number of allegations made against the council have been referred to the Office for Public Integrity. The allegations include the alleged excessive use of payouts and redundancies in the management of the council’s staffing resources.
Mickey Arthur will probably lose his unfair dismissal claim against Cricket Australia and could face a defamation suit if it is found that he leaked information to the media.
A man named Kim O’Grady says that by using ‘Mr’ this allowed him to get a job after four months of rejections by employers who believed he was a woman. O’Grady has written a blog about ‘How I discovered Gender Discrimination’. The story has gone viral in Australia, USA, Canada and UK. Mr O’Grady describes how he was looking for a job in the late 1990s, he had years of experience in engineering and other fields and there were plenty of opportunities around. It was only after he started using Mr in his applications that he was successful in finding a job.
The ACTU has called for a rethink of Safe Work Australia’s proposed bullying codes of practice, arguing that bullying should be treated the same way as other workplace hazards. The ACTU said that it supported Safe Work’s draft Code of Practice but that regulation was also required to tackle bullying. They argue that a strong workplace culture is the best way to stop bullying, but this can only occur if employer’s responsibilities are clearly outlined in regulation. Employers should be responsible for identifying risks and acting on complaints of bullying.
Experts at a national bullying symposium urged the Federal Government to make bullying a specific criminal offence. The offence should carry a comparatively minor penalty to deal with more serious forms of abuse and to enhance existing laws. It was also recognised that bullying has now extended into the virtual world, which makes it possible to be bullied 24 hours a day.
A decision reinstating a prison officer who was dismissed following a conviction for exposing himself has been overturned by the Full Bench of the NSW IRC. The full bench found that when considering whether the offending conduct out of hours affected the ongoing employment relationship, the commissioner applied the wrong test. They found that the commissioner’s approach was too narrow and the commissioner did not take into account the fact that the prison officer stated that he had little interaction with prisoners. The full bench allowed the appeal.
08 – 14 July 2013
The Human Rights Commission president is standing by an online petition calling for Myer to introduce a 10% disabled worker quota. Commissioner Innes launched the petition in response to comments made by Myer chief Mr Brookes. Mr Brookes told a business forum that the extra $300 a taxpayer would pay towards the national disability scheme was money that could otherwise be spent at Myer stores. Mr Brookes has criticised Mr Innes petition saying that government officials should not be able to attack individual companies.
Seven telltale signs of bullying and harassment
• Victims of bullying feel intimidated and devalued long before they realise it with conscious thought
• If you are unable to express and opinion for fear of a negative reaction – especially from one person who makes off-hand remarks and jokes
• You should not feel as if you have to tread on eggshells to avoid someone’s aggressive behaviour
• Raised voices and foul language
• If you are constantly upset about someone’s behaviour
• If you confront the person about their behaviour but instead of getting better, it either gets better then slides back into old habits, or gets worse
• If your tolerance level or acceptance level has shifted
MYOB is using an online performance management tool to increase employee engagement. The aim is to combine social sharing with performance management. The enterprise wide system allows employees to share and align goals, celebrate individual and team successes, track performance on goals and provide regular feedback and evaluations. It is designed to help workers build better relationships and makes the office more productive. It allows all team members to provide comments and feedback.
The ABC and federal government have been accused of neglecting Australia’s blind population. They are now the subjects of 21 complaints to the Australian Human Rights Commission for failing to fund and operate a television audio service.
An Australian psychotherapist is urging employers to watch out for workplace psychopaths. Dr Clarke says workplace psychopaths exist in most large organisations and can isolate and mentally destroy the staff around them. Dr Clarke said the only way to protect against these people is to refuse to tolerate their damaging behaviour. A workplace psychopath is somebody who psychologically destroys the people they work with to feed their need for a sense of power and control. They can be difficult to identify because usually they are well liked and competent at their jobs.
Following reports alleging a culture of bullying, inappropriate behaviour and connections between criminals and prison officers, WA’s prison minister turned up unannounced to inspect a jail for himself. Mr Francis says that he had lost faith in his department and that he was determined to fix this.
Women feeling discriminated in their workplaces due to pregnancy or motherhood can now call a hotline to discuss their problems. The hotline is a response to employers who are flouting laws designed to protect women. Around 67 000 women felt some form of discrimination as a result of falling pregnant. Many women often feel alone and don’t’ know how to respond to the culture in their workplace.
Managers and senior staff should be war of having flings with colleagues. The legal risks they run are greater than the risks other staff face. Managers should be particularly careful because of the recent blurring of work life and private life. If any employee does something in their private life that is incompatible with their obligation to faithfully serve their employer at work, it may justify their dismissal. Managers are particularly vulnerable because sleeping with a subordinate is likely to impair their ability to properly supervise that employee and may expose them to claims of unlawful discrimination. However, it can be hard to determine when sex out of work is a ‘sackable’ offence.
An appeal against a payout for racial discrimination to an employee of Queensland’s Department of Communities has been dismissed. The employee, who was of indigenous heritage, claimed that he was subjected to racial discrimination. The QCAT at first instance concluded that B had been subjected to direct racial discrimination, which consisted of inappropriate racial comments made by another employee. The Tribunal determined that the employee was entitled to compensation. The compensation was discounted because the tribunal believed that the employee’s depression did not result entirely from the actions of the fellow employee. B’s appeal against the discount was dismissed.
The National Disability Scheme is only available to people under 65, after which people are covered by the aged-care sector. A senior policy advisor at Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association says this is age discrimination. The aged care system is not adequately equipped to deal with disability and the age limit on the scheme should be scrapped. People who enter the system before they turn 65 have the choice to stay in the scheme or enter the aged care system when they turn 65.
The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union says it doubts the legitimacy of reports Yallourn power station staff have been harassed. The operator of the station says one employee had the word ‘scab’ spray-painted on his fence and other employees found stickers with the word scab stuck to their cars. The CFMEU and Energy Australia have been involved in an industrial dispute for almost a year. The state vice-president of CFMEU says the union and its members had nothing to do with the harassment.
A former partner at RSM Bird Cameron faces a hefty legal bill after a Federal Court judge threw out her sex and disability discrimination claims. Ms Gaffney alleged she had been bullied at work after fellow partners voted for the first time in the firm’s history to force a partner into compulsory retirement. The move was made after Ms Gaffney did not return to work after eight months of sick leave. In a summary judgment Gilmour J said that he had not been provided with any evidence of discrimination.
Victoria’s liquor licence regulator has stood down several inspectors after claims of bullying and misconduct. The inspectors will be paid but can’t work during the inquiry. Sources say staff fear they are being victimised for complaining about bullying within the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation. Complaints have been made about one staff member calling a colleague ‘door bitch’ during a meeting.
Talkback host Ray Hadley is being sued for allegedly bullying a junior colleague. A statement of claim was lodged in the District Court of NSW. The claim alleges that Hadley deliberately inflicted psychological harm on Mr Palmer. H is also facing allegations of false imprisonment because a colleague guarded the exit to Hadley’s office while the radio host verbally abused Mr Palmer. It is believed Mr Palmer secretly recorded the confrontation because he was concerned about a threat to his employment.
A new toolkit will enable employers to determine realistic gender representation targets. It has been launched by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency. The toolkit includes a target-setting calculator that allows employers to input their own data, such as turnover and recruitment rates to determine gender representation targets. Targets are seen to be more effective than the tick-a-box approach of quotas. Targets work towards the necessary cultural and structural change to ensure sustainable improvement. This also allows for employers to self-regulate.
Members of the army involved in the abuse scandal have been accused of disseminating a woman’s address so others could ‘get some action.’ The group is reported as being co-founded by a former commando officer who videoed himself having sex with a woman and then emailed it to his mates on the defence-restricted computer network. Images were viewed by up to 60 defence personnel who made comments on her appearance and performance. The group made references to gangbangs and demands for more images. So far 10 soldiers have been suspended with another 90 still under investigation.
Australian businesses have ended the financial year with their second report on diversity strategy and compliance. More than 90% of S&P ASX 200 companies have a diversity policy. However, in many cases there is too much emphasis placed on plain numeric declarations and not enough on the quality of diversity management. Reference to numeric targets for women’s participation in the workforce is the overwhelming focus of the document. Reports suggest that the majority of organisations focused on gender ratios as opposed to developing a broader strategy for promoting inclusion and diversity. These numbers say nothing about organisational culture. Although the number of women on boards increased to 23% in 2012, the same women occupied multiple corporate board positions. Employers are more concerned with ticking the box with existing female talent than discovering more.
A study done in Toronto shows that women without children and men who take on caregiving roles are treated worse at work than individuals who conform to gender expectations. From teasing male workers as ‘not man enough’ to social exclusion, general putdowns and questioning of competence and ability, men and women who challenge social expectations face difficulties at work. This is disturbing because it discourages workers from using leave and flexible work policies if they are worried their status in the workplace will suffer. Women without children suffered the most mistreatment, followed by men who take on caregiving roles.
In a recent case in California a 28-year-old jockey was astounded and offended when she believed a steward banned her from breast-feeding her baby son at a Californian racetrack. She said she was told that she had to decide whether she wanted to be a mother or a jockey. Officials at the track have put the row down to a misunderstanding but the California Horse Racing Board has come down firmly on Stra’s (the jockey) side. The CHRB said they would not tolerate discrimination and that certain accommodations should be made to allow Stra to do her job whilst being a mother.
A recent Supreme Court of Victoria decision has awarded almost $600 000 to an employee who developed severe psychological disorders from an established pattern of workplace bullying by her manager. Ms Swan worked as a part time sales assistant. She alleged that throughout her employment her manager engaged in bullying, harassing and intimidating conduct. Ms Swan first reported this is 2003 but the board did not implement any measures to assist Ms Swan. Dixon J found that here employer had failed in its duty of care to Ms Swan.
1 – 7 July 2013
Another five army personnel have been suspended for their involvement with an email allegedly distributing sex films. Army chief Lieutenant-General David Morrison said members who thought sexism was ok should get out. These five new suspensions are part of an ongoing investigation by the Australian Defence Force.
Racism, bullying and intimidation have emerged as a problem in WA jails. Documents highlight the extraordinary length that some guards will go to damage their own workmates. A Bunbury prison officer arrived home to find a farewell card waiting for her, which marked the end of 15 years in that workplace. In the card was a typed note telling the officer she was ‘useless, pathetic, part tarbrush and hated.’ The officer’s complaint about the card was investigated but the tormentor whilst demoted was allowed to keep his job, whilst all the officer received was a letter apologising from the then commissioner Ian Johnson. She believes that there were no consequences for the bullying and that good officers have learnt not to complain because it only makes matters worse.
Corrective Services Minister Joe Francis will ask for an investigation into serious concerns about his department after a series of damaging reports highlighting corruption and other misconduct were released. He has signalled a major overhaul and stated that the workplace culture had to change. The department has been criticised since revelations of prison officers associating with organised crime figures inside and outside of WA prisons. Documents were leaked when racism and bullying were thought to have contributed an officer’s suicide.
A study has found that school principals are the nation’s most stressed and bullied profession. One in three principals have been physically attacked or a witness to violence in their workplace. Findings show that principals face six times the incidence of physical violence compared to other workers. Most attacks or threats of violence are from parents rather than students or teachers. The two biggest causes of work related stress were sheer workload and lack of time to focus on teaching and student learning. Nearly 40% reported feeling stressed or bullied, compared to an 8% average in the national workforce.
An accountant who stole $43 million from her employer had her jail sentence reduced this week. She said that she only stole the money out of a sense of revenge because she had been the victim of an allegedly abusive affair and she claimed that her bosses were bullies. This toxic culture compelled her ‘to get back at the system and others within the system’ so she redirected company funds to herself.
If more men were to embrace flexible working arrangements, gender inequality in the workforce could be reduced. Statistics show that on average women still earn less than men. Across all sectors women earn on average 82% of what men do. This gender income gap has barely shifted in the last 30 years and has gone slightly backwards since the early 1980s. One of the main differences is the amount of hours women work compared with men. While 72% of men work in permanent full time jobs, only 44% of women do. Employment rate for men with children is around 90% whereas for women with small children it is only 50%. This contributes to gender pay gap because women are spending time out of the workforce and can also give men an edge when applying for a job because they will not be expected to take time out of their careers to raise children. Men utilising flexible work arrangements will help break down this stereotype.
One in five women in the workforce reported their employer discriminated against them because of pregnancy. In 2011 one in three women in Australia with a child under two say they left the workforce permanently. One in ten received inappropriate or negative comments from their manager or supervisor. And one in fifteen missed out on an opportunity for promotion, training or development. Even though it is illegal to discriminate against women who are pregnant these laws are not operating effectively as a deterrent.
A spokesperson for Human Rights Alliance has called for a public inquiry into racism and violence within the Corrective Services Department. Minister Joe Francis has not decided if this is the best way to review how the department operated. It has been alleged that a prison officer took his own life after other officers racially vilified him.
A State government employee who was sacked for allegedly sending inappropriate emails has been compensated more than $17 000 for his harsh dismissal. The emails included crude jokes and photographs of replica penises and a woman’s breasts. However, Mr Lucas will not be given his job back in the Health Department. The Industrial Relations Commission found that his employers concerns over performance were legitimate and long standing. Mr Lucas said that he did not create the emails just forwarded them to people who he knew would not be offended by them. He said he had no intention to offend anyone or to damage the reputation of the employer. Ms Batel held that there was a range of problems, which led to the dismissal being unfair. Mr Lucas was not given an opportunity to provide a considered response to all of the material presented before him. No consideration was given to any mitigating factors. The dismissal was held to be unfair.
A Pay Equity Unit has been established to provide information in matters relating to pay equity under the Fair Work Act. The unit is a response to recent findings that work done in the female dominated social and community sector is undervalued. It is hoped that this Unit will facilitate improvement in the disparity between women’s and men’s earnings.
A new hotline will provide advice for women who experience workplace discrimination because they are pregnant. 67 000 women have experienced some form of discrimination because of their pregnancy. The confidential hotline is set up to allow women a ‘fair go’ said ACTU president Ged Kearney.
A woman has been awarded $35 490 compensation for sexual harassment and discrimination by a Gold Coast resort chef. Ms McCauley said she put up with years of harassment by male kitchen staff. She took action after a young male chef called her a ‘cougar’ and ‘Old Spice’. Resort managers initially dismissed her complaint. The tribunal then found that the Club Resorts Hotel should pay compensation. The tribunal found that the male chef, Mr Barrington had sexually harassed Ms McCauley and discriminated against her based on her sex and age.
A parliamentary inquiry has been set up to investigate an alleged bullying culture at WorkCover NSW. This follows the finding by NSWIRC that a senior employee had been systematically bullied out of his job.
The Fair Work Amendment Bill 2013, which provides a new bullying jurisdiction, passed the Senate. This provides parents with more flexible options for taking parental leave and requesting flexible working arrangements. The circumstances in which flexible working arrangements can be sought have been expanded to include:
• Parents returning to work after a period of parental leave
• Parents with school-age children
• Workers with caring responsibilities
• Mature-age workers
• Workers with disability
• Those suffering family violence and their carers