24 – 30 June 2013
A new study has found links between workplace bullying and depression. Resilient personality characteristics and supportive social and workplace environments could reduce the impact of exposure to workplace bullying. There is increased prevalence of bullying where respondents reported negative work characteristics. Those who reported to currently experiencing bullying behaviour were more likely to have a worrying and emotive nature. They also scored low on measures of mastery such as personal control. They were also more likely to have significant depression symptoms when compared to those with no history of bullying.
The report also made the following findings, respondents with significant depression symptoms were twice as likely to take time off, respondents who felt they received low levels of support from their colleagues and managers were more than twice as likely to report significant depression symptoms and insecure employment was associated with a greater risk of depression.
The government of Australia has asked the AHRC to launch an inquiry into treatment of women in the workplace. Elizabeth Broderick will oversee a national survey to assess the prevalence, nature and consequences of discrimination relating to pregnancy at work and return to work after parental leave.
The bystander effect occurs in many offices. Women are more often victims of sexual harassment at work than men. Australian Human Rights Commission statistics show that at least one in four women has ben sexually harassed in the past five years. There is also a clear gender difference in the perception of sexual harassment. Men and women both perceive blatant behaviour like sexual bribery and threats as harassment. But women are more likely to regard inappropriate looks or remarks as sexual harassment. Research shows men do not find the same behaviours offensive if directed at them, and are in fact four times more likely to find it flattering.
One in ten Australian businesses have an age above which they will not recruit, for most this is 50. A third of the business leaders surveyed said that older workers ‘did not like being told what to do’ by someone younger and were more forgetful. A fifth said older workers preferred not to use technology, had difficulty learning new things and did not want to work long hours. However, Commissioner Ryan says that it is vital we recognise that the growth in the number of older Australians provides significant and very real economic and social benefits and opportunities.
A study of 3000 Australians aged between 45 and 74 found a third of workers aged over 45 had experienced workplace discrimination because of their age. This study also found that 13% of respondents had been denied training, promotion and equal pay while suffering derogatory comments and having the feeling of being forced out of the workforce. 31% of retirees reported the mere perception that employers considered them too old greatly influenced their decision to leave the workforce. The human rights commission survey indicated 71% of Australians believed age discrimination is common. 43% of younger people believed that older workers did not like to be told what to do by someone younger.
A new US study shows that unattractive, mean people are also more likely to be bullied in the workplace. 35% of Americans admitted to being bullied at work and findings revealed that both personality and appearance matter. The results showed that unattractive people were treated worse by their co-workers and those who were rated as not friendly were also more likely to be bullied at work. But if you were mean but attractive then this would reduce the chance of you being bullied.
A poll has found that senior management at ad agencies in Australia are prone to bullying junior staff. 33% of respondents said that senior management was prone to bullying junior staff, while 27% of voters said bullying was a problem at all levels. Less than one third of respondents said they had never witnessed bullying behaviour and 9% said management generally acted quickly to stop bullying when it occurred.
Legislation to outlaw discrimination against gays and lesbians by faith based aged care providers has passed parliament. Religious organisations enjoy an exemption from many areas of discrimination law. Here the proposal was an amendment to a bill to more broadly outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.
Elmer Funke Kupper says that the low number of women in Australian boardrooms is reflective of women in middle management and senior executive level. Last week Mr Kupper and 13 other Australian corporate and government leaders signed up to tougher gender reporting obligations. They have agreed to disclose the number and percentage of women in at least three levels of management, and targets for how many women they aim to have in these levels. They also agreed to be held accountable for meeting gender targets in their own performance evaluations. An ASX audit said that three quarters of jobs could have some form of flexibility and something like a third of the top 80 jobs in the company could be done part time for a period of time. This meant there should be a shift in approach to flexible work requests.
Brodie Panlock’s parents hope to take their fight against workplace bullied to a national stage. The Panlock’s have joined the Alannah and Madeline Foundation to deliver Brodie’s Law, an education and prevention designed to reduce bullying of young people at work.
The NSW government body tasked with protecting all employees from harassment in the workplace appears to be rife with bullying. Workcover will be subject to an inquiry into bullying after NSW Industrial Relations Commission found the organisation had systematically bullied a senior employee out of his job. This follows a report by Pricewaterhouse Coopers in 2011 which revealed that about 40% of Workcover employees reported experiencing harassment and bullying in their workplace.
A senior WorkCover employee bullied out of the state government agency has been handed his job back. WorkCover was found to have engaged in scurrilous and malicious behaviour in moving to persecute Mr Butler out of the organisation. Mr Butler was also seeking a formal apology from WorkCover. Harrison said that Work Cover’s conduct was shabby and disgraceful and had all the characteristics of institutional bullying. He said that there was no substance to any of the eight allegations made against Mr Butler. He was used as a scapegoat for systemic management failure and as a sacrifice to an application of policy and procedure in a draconian way said Mr Harrison.
Businesses may be getting away with discrimination because the legal process is daunting and expensive. Ms Fillmore was sacked from her job as a client services manager after applying to work part time after maternity leave. She has filed a complaint with the Fair Work Commission. Director for Workplace Gender Equality Agency said that not all women follow through with legal action as lawyers are expensive and the legal process is daunting. This is one area that the AHRC will investigate when looking at discrimination against working pregnant women.
A Melbourne financial advice firm faces a discrimination claim after it sacked a new mother while she was on maternity leave, and refused to let her return to work part time. Ms Fillmore was employed as a client services manager in April 2012 and began maternity leave in December that year. Ms Fillmore had agreed to return to work either full time or part time in mid 2013. Ms Fillmore then wrote a request to return to work 3 days a week from July with a view to returning to full time work within six months. 2 days later she was informed that she was fired, as this arrangement would not suit the company. Ms Fillmore is seeking compensation for lost wages and distress.
17 – 23 June 2013
Kerry Morrison who accused Optus of maintaining a culture of bullying has settled her case. This would avoid a potentially lengthy and awkward court trial and Optus released a statement that this was in the best interests of all parties. Optus has said they investigated the behavior of the two executives and found that they both acted appropriately at all times.
The High Court has ruled that alcohol management plans in 19 indigenous Queensland communities do not breach racial discrimination laws. These plans apply to areas with large indigenous populations. Ms. Maloney was convicted in October 2010 of possessing more than the prescribed amount of liquor and she has been the driving force behind the appeal to the High Court. It was found that although the plan clearly targeted indigenous populations, the law was enacted with the legitimate and non-discriminatory public goal of minimizing harm caused by alcohol abuse and misuse and associated violence.
A Brisbane manager was fired for having sex with one of his staff members while at work. His application to FWC for unfair dismissal was rejected. Bosses who have consensual relationships with their staff members are more liable for inappropriate conduct than their partners. In this case the man was dismissed for alleged gross misconduct after he used his position to gain access to an out-of-home care facility when a female employee was on duty, where they engaged in sexual activity. The man tried to argue that he was treated differently to the female employee, a youth worker, even though they did the same thing.
Allegations of sexual assault and bullying at two defence establishments have proved more widespread and persistent than first thought. Mr Smith said that the taskforce now has an additional 48 complaints alleging incidents of physical abuse, sexual abuse, harassment or bullying at ADFA. However, there was still not enough evidence or complaints to enable all abusers to be identified.
Business and government leaders have committed to promoting more women to senior positions following calls to improve transparency in gender measurement. Elizabeth Broderick convened the group, Male Champions of Change which consists of 14 corporate leaders. They have agreed to report on targets and the progress on the numbers of women in at least three layers of management. CEOs will be held responsible for meeting set gender targets in their performance reviews.
More than 70% of people feel that age discrimination is common in Australia. The AHRC released an extensive report on perceptions of age in the workplace. It found that 35% of those over 55 have experienced age discrimination. The report also found that those aged 18 – 34 were the least concerned about age discrimination, believing it was not as important as other types of discrimination. Commissioner Ryan said that with the expected radical change in the age profile of Australia shifting negative attitudes was imperative.
More than a third of people older than 45 have experienced age discrimination during their search for employment. A Federal Government commissioned report of 3000 people aged 45-74 was completed in 2012. It found:
• 13% of respondents were denied training, promotion and equal pay while suffering derogatory comments
• 31% of those retired said a key factor in their retirement was that they were considered too old by employers
• 16% in labour market told they are too old for the job by family and friends
• 36% say they were excluded on basis of age while searching for a job
• 5 in 6 jobseekers agree that age discrimination was a problem
Two days after A announced her pregnancy at work her employer terminated her employment. Within 48 hours A had negotiated a payout from the company. But although she won compensation this is hardly a victory. She lost a job she enjoyed and the security of having a job to return to after maternity leave. Signing a non-disclosure agreement was conditional to Amanda receiving the compensation. This is a common situation now and employers will attempt to disguise unlawful terminations of pregnant women within the context of restructure. Around 20% of complaints under the Sex Discrimination Act relate to alleged unlawful terminations due to pregnancy or potential pregnancy.
One in ten bosses won’t hire a worker older than 50. A third of business leaders surveyed said that older workers did not like being told what to do. 15% said older workers complain a lot more and 11% felt older workers were grumpy or short tempered. Women workers were more likely to feel discriminated against them men.
The Federal government has launched an inquiry into the extent of workplace discrimination against women taking parental leave. The AHRC will investigate the extent of discrimination against employees taking parental leave when pregnant or caring for a child. Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick will head the inquiry. Although it is illegal to discriminate against pregnant women in a workplace, one in five women still report discrimination. The report will be presented next May.
10 – 16 June 2013
Ms Holt has won an appeal against Q-Comp allowing her to receive worker’s compensation. Ms Holt suffered an adjustment order anxiety and has been looking for work since she left Westpac Bank. She was subject to name-calling about her weight and appearance since she started as implementation manager. The Commissioner found that she was called ‘Scabby Abby’ her manager made fun of her because she didn’t eat much and she was also referred to as a ‘Coke puppet’. When she made a complaint regarding the bullying she was told that she had tarnished her reputation and she needed to have a good think about her future at Westpac. She was later asked to leave the building and escorted from the premises.
The FWC is at risk of being swamped by a flood of bullying complaints if proposed legislation passes through the Senate. Andrew Stewart has said that the Commission will be forced to deal with thousands of complaints, which aren’t true bullying cases. He says that the new mechanism should have some way of screening complaints and for the possibility of the commission declining to act if they feel a complaint should be dealt with through another mechanism. The Commission was given an extra $21.4m to cope with workplace bullying complaints.
Employers will face a different legal landscape when new bullying provisions come into force. The FWC is preparing to handle an additional 3500 new bullying claims a year. Critics predict that there will be a growth in ‘reverse bullying’ where staff targets employers for imposing legitimate performance management. Ms Alice DeBoos believes that resilience is at an all time low and this leads to frivolous bullying complaints. However, Mr Sivaraman believes that reforms will improve productivity, harmony and reduce potential liability for psychiatric injury.
Workplace bullies risk $10 000 fines and could be dobbed in by customers or work experience students under new reforms. The FWC will be able to order that the bullying cease within 14 days and anyone who ignores the order could be fined $10 200 and for corporations $51 000. Employees, contractors, outworkers and volunteers will be able to report bullying allegations.
Julia Gillard has made sexism a big part of the election agenda. This week details of a menu describing Julia Gillard in crude sexual terms emerged. A former federal health minister, Carmen Lawrence has said that ‘rank hostility to women’ has emerged in Australian public life. Nareen Young says there seems to be a double standard for politician while every other person has to comply with legislative frameworks. If ordinary Australians said some of these things in the workplace they’d be sacked.
The Australian military was embroiled in a new sex scandal with 17 officers under investigation after hundreds of ‘explicit and repugnant’ emails and images demeaning women were uncovered. Army Chief said that he was appalled at the revelations. He said that this was worse than the Skype matter in 2011, which triggered an investigation, because of the seniority of the staff involved.
The latest Defence scandal has prompted calls for a zero tolerance approach to misconduct. The Chief of Army yesterday revealed three personnel that degraded women. A further five personnel are facing suspension and nine others are being investigated, with more than 90 people implicated in the emails. Experts suggest that ingrained sexism in the Army may be worse than first thought. Ms Broderick says the range of people involved in this scandal appals her; it ranged across officers of all ranks. She said that there is a culture of sexually objectifying women. This email scandal comes as the Defence Force tries to recover form the 2011 Skype incident where a female cadet was unknowingly broadcast having consensual sex on camera.
Under the Labor government women have made some gains but in many ways they have gone backwards. The number of women in leadership roles has increased and female workforce participation has risen marginally the gender pay gap has widened considerably. Women in paid work fared better than those in unpaid work. Figures from the Equal Opportunity or Women in Workplace Agency show that there have only been small gains in numbers of female executives. Also while participation has improved almost half of female employees work part-time and there is still a significant decline among women in their 20s and 30s (the years when women are having children).
Differential treatment between two employees who engaged in similar misconduct did not make the dismissal of one unfair. Both employees admitted to tampering with sound monitoring equipment. One employee was dismissed after a disciplinary process the other was given a warning and temporary suspension. The full bench noted that the response to misconduct is a matter of discretion. The time, place and circumstances of one breach, the circumstances of the offender and the implication will seldom coincide. SDP Richards found that the circumstances leading to dismissal were quite different. Most significantly the other employee volunteered information and demonstrated remorse. Therefore the employer could place that employee in an ongoing employment relationship.
The issue of taking advantage of older workers experience will become more important as baby boomers leave the workface. Since the report of Access All Ages the commission has identified legal barriers to older persons participating in the workforce. Several recommendations were to the effect that the social security and superannuation schemes should not discourage or prevent workforce participation. This should be done through a combination of legislative and regulatory reform is needed together with measures to increase education and awareness and address perceptions and stereotypes surrounding mature age workers.
Liz Broderick has said that she is appalled and saddened to learn about explicit emails demeaning women were circulated by Australian Army members. However, she also said that there has been progress made for women and that the Chief of the force quickly accepted here recommendations following her review. She said that these allegations in the army are a significant setback to reform.
03 – 09 June 2013
Safe Work Australia’s latest code of practice wants workers to keep bully diaries to use as evidence against bad bosses and co-workers. The redrafted code also includes an expanded concept of workplace bullying to cover comment on social media or Internet chat rooms. Bosses are branded as bullies if they subject workers to excessive scrutiny or assign task below an employee’s skill level. Safe Work removed ‘teasing’, ‘practical jokes’ and ‘displaying offensive material’ as forms of bullying. But co-workers who spread malicious rumours are now considered bullies.
Workplace Minister Bill Shorten has appealed to Liberal MPs to back workplace anti-bullying measures. The coalition is demanding that anti-bulling provisions be removed from the Fair Work Amendment Bill so that it can include union officials. The Independents have also said they will block changes.
A Not for Profit fundraiser has developed an app designed to empower people subjected to bullying in the workplace. The Bully Buster App allows users to document incidents and witnesses for future reference.
A former Ballarat policeman may sue Victoria Police over alleged workplace bullying between 2009 and 2012. Mr Irving said he made a successful Workcover claim over bullying, which he says included a car park confrontation, verbal abuse and intimidating gestures. Mr Irving has cancer and says that stress is the number one contributing factor to cancer. Victoria Police said they were aware of the bitter workplace dispute between members at Ballarat and they were focused on stamping out bullying.
Bosses who want to hire good-looking staff can now use a website that vets attractive job candidates. The site maintains attractiveness by members who vote other members in or out based on their looks. Good-looking people will also be able to use the site to browse for job adds. The managing director of the site said that attractive people tend to make a better first impression on clients, win more business and earn more.
The pay gap for male and female university graduates is growing, with difference in salary more than doubling last year. The Workplace Gender Equality Agency found that the median gap in starting salaries increased from $2000 in 2011 to $5000 in 2012. There is no logical explanation for these differences.
Women are still underrepresented on nation’s boards, underpaid by employers and under-recruited in job interviews. This can be explained by statistical discrimination such as women are less likely to get pay rises and promotions because there is an expectation they will form a family and take time out of their careers. There has also been evidence that employers prefer to hire people of their own gender. Women are also perceived less favourably in leadership roles then men. Quotas may be one way to increase female representation at higher levels of companies and organisations.
A report released by Victorian EOHRC on racism shows that it is still a big problem in workplaces. The commission found that racism was most commonly experienced or witnessed in the workplace and that the majority of respondents said nothing when they witnessed it. Another study has shown that a person with a Chinese name would have to submit 68% more applications than someone with an Anglo-Saxon name. Some employers are now providing workplace training on unconscious bias.
The boss of Australia’s foreign aid program has rejected claims his agency has a culture of bullying and harassment. He has released a statement that he categorically rejects that AusAID has a culture of bullying. He said that since 2007 AusAID has only had four claims for bullying accepted by Comcare.
More than 50% of women in the business community have been discriminated against at work on the basis of their gender. The Committee for Economic Development of Australia survey of 600 professionals found that 93.2% of women believe barriers to equality at work still exist. Respondents ranked workplace culture, a lack of female leaders and gender stereotypes as the most significant barriers for women. The gender pay gap is still around 17.5% and only 3.5% of CEOS in the ASX200 were women in 2012. The report makes a number of suggestions including introduction of structured pay audits, re-examining recruitment process and introducing leadership accountability. Unconscious bias is a significant barrier to equality at work.
Australia needs to create a national mature age workforce to address age barriers. The Australian Law Reform Commission Report made 36 recommendations including a combination of legislative and regulatory reform. Education and awareness also need to be targeted to address stereotypes surrounding mature age workers.
A solicitor has lost an appeal claiming she had been bullied, harassed and undermined by a female colleague when she returned to work following maternity leave. At the initial trial the Judge concluded that Ms Brown had not been bullied and it was not reasonably foreseeable that she might suffer psychiatric injury. The firm was not held liable because they had properly discharged their duty of care.
Legislation to make discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and intersex status unlawful has passed the House of Representatives.
The proposed new workplace bullying laws will now be delayed until after the election. This may delay the start date of the laws until 1 January next year.
Two mothers who claim they were sacked while on maternity leave are suing their former employers for unlawful discrimination and sexual harassment. Ms Poppy says she worked with the council from June 2006 and was promoted to marketing manager on $60 000 a year before she fell pregnant. After this she was moved from her office to a common work area and told to no longer attend management meetings. She was later informed her position was made redundant. Ms Stanley was employed in the council’s property department and took maternity leave. Five months later she was told her position was made redundant and there were no other available positions. Both women have claimed they were subjected to comments of a sexual nature, which offended, humiliated and intimidated them.
Jetstar refused a woman with cerebral palsy from a flight because it believed she could not understand instructions. Ms Papworth was traveling from Brisbane to visit her family in Newcastle when she was barred from the flight. The family said they were horrified and that there had been family members to help her on and off the flight. Disability Discrimination Commissioner Mr Innes said he was saddened by this treatment.
27 May – 02 June 2013
The Australian Independents Party is calling for bullying to be made a criminal offence. 74% of 500 people polled across three Coast electorates support the move. This would follow in the footsteps of the Victorian initiative of Brodie’s Law. Defence lawyer Travis Schultz says that criminalising bullying isn’t the answer, particularly when trying to protect children.
Bullying and mismanagement complaints continue to emerge from staff at ASIC responsible for the integrity of Australia’s financial markets. 14% of staff on the small team responsible for monitoring equities and derivatives markets has been subjected to ongoing bullying or harassment in the past year. ASIC denies that bullying is a problem in the division.
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has called on Tony Abbott to back away from a pledge to repeal s18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. The Coalition seeks to limit the section’s application to acts of intimidation and harassment but supports the principles underlying it. Section 18C makes it unlawful to publish material which offends or insults a person or group because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the person. This has been held to hamper free speech.
An amendment to the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act makes it unnecessary in indirect discrimination complaints to prove that a protected ground of discrimination is a reason for the discriminatory treatment, requirement or condition. This follows the case of Ors v NSW.
Australia is moving to ban discrimination against LGBT people and intersex people under national law. The Sex Discrimination Amendment Orientation Bill will make it unlawful to discriminate against someone on the basis of his or her sexual orientation.
A mother who was dismissed after her daughter died has been allowed to seek greater damages than in her initial claim. Ms Doyle alleges that she was unfairly dismissed form her chef-manager role. Ms Doyle’s daughter was shot and she was by her bedside until her death five days later. She had no contact with her workplace for a fortnight but was then told that they were unable to keep her position open. A doctor had certified Ms Doyle was unfit to work.
The Australian Human Rights Commission has said that bullying is endemic in Australia. Australia is ranked worst in the world for social network bullying. Complaints to the Commission have soared by almost 40% to 17,000 a year.
The Access All Ages – Older Workers and Commonwealth Laws report identifies legal barriers to workforce participation y by mature workers. In the report it was noted that the solution required a broader range than just the law. Recommendations included a coordinated policy, consistency, reduction in age discrimination, and a greater awareness of mature age worker’s right.
A new report by the Diversity Council of Australia suggests that improving participation of women over 45 would benefit business. Employers would reap significant benefits by reviewing their attraction, retention, transition and flexible working strategies with older women in mind.
A prison officer who was dismissed after being found guilty of exposing himself to a police officer has been reinstated. The prison officer was convicted and fined. On the day of his conviction he was suspended from his role as a prison officer. He was later dismissed the reasons for included the out of hours conduct resulting in conviction. Commissioner Newall found that D had been unfairly dismissed. The conduct was out of hours and could not form the basis of the decision to dismiss D.
A study of racism in Victorian has found people are most likely to face discrimination at work. The study found that almost a third of respondents had witnessed or experienced racism at work and three out of ten witnessed it in public. Verbal abuse is the most common form of racism. People were twice as likely to be abused walking down the street then on public transport. The survey found that most people don’t report incidents because they believe that nothing will be done about it. Ms Toohey hopes that cases such as AFL player Adam Goodes standing up against racist comments will encourage more people to come forward. Concerns in the workplace include people disengaging from work, sometimes even leaving the workplace and struggling to get jobs again.