News

What’s been happening in Australia in relation to sexual harassment, discrimination, and bullying from 20-26 May 2024

Weak corporate culture linked to unethical behaviour  A third of employees across the world have observed employee misconduct or unethical behaviour in the past year, with such practices more prevalent in organisations with weak workplace cultures. This is according to the latest Benchmark of Ethical Culture Report from the Learning Resource Network (LRN) , which surveyed 8,500 employees at major organisations and corporations from 15 countries. It found that 33% of employees observed misconduct or unethical behaviour in the past year, with instances going up to 38% for organisations with weak workplace cultures.  According to the report, 79% of those who saw misconduct or unethical behaviour reported them - a majority raising it with their managers (60%). Reporting of such instances were much more prevalent in organisations with "strong" workplace cultures (93%), than those with a weak one (63%). While most employees reported misconduct or unethical behaviour, 21% of them...
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What’s been happening in Australia in relation to sexual harassment, discrimination, and bullying from 13 May -19 May 2024

Dismissed for posting negative comments about management The Fair Work Commission (FWC) recently dealt with an unfair dismissal claim lodged by a worker against her employer, a hotel. She worked as a casual sales representative and bar supervisor.  The employer met with the employee to address performance issues such as sending herself on breaks during peak trade, closing the bar without approval, customer complaints, and not arriving to shifts on time. The worker also used social media platforms to vent her opinions about the management team even after being spoken to about what constituted appropriate social media usage.  The FWC addressed two issues - one was whether the worker could make an unfair dismissal claim given she was employed on a casual basis. The other was whether the employer had valid reasons to dismiss her.   The case examined the details of casual employment and the factors that determine whether a casual employee...
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What’s been happening in Australia in relation to sexual harassment, discrimination, and bullying from 06 May 2024 – 12 May 2024

Is raising your voice at a worker considered bullying? The Fair Work Commission (FWC) recently dealt with an application made by a worker for an anti-bullying order. The worker, an employee of Yarra City Council, contended that at various times from September 2023, he was subjected to bullying by his employer and its infrastructure manager. The employer denied that the worker was bullied and opposed the making of an order. It said that the manager was merely frustrated at the worker’s performance and that it was part of the former’s job to “manage people”. The FWC said that the employer's manager of people and culture gave evidence that the Council did not consider that the worker had been subjected to bullying. She stated that the requirement for the worker to attend the office five days a week was a means of managing his performance and providing him with appropriate support. The...
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Fostering a Positive Work Environment in the Mining Industry

Amid Western Australia's thriving economy, the mining sector stands as a cornerstone. Alongside its prosperity, concerns about mental health, workplace culture, and safety have prompted a concerted effort for improvement. In a significant proactive move, the Government of Western Australia unveiled the Mental Awareness, Respect, and Safety (MARS) Program on 11 December 2021, earmarking $8.4 million to address workplace issues within the mining industry. An excellent example of collaboration for the greater good The MARS Program is led by the Department of Energy, Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS). Cross-agency partners include the Mental Health Commission, Equal Opportunity Commission, and Department of Communities. Following a meticulous selection process, Edith Cowan University (ECU) was the successful applicant for the Professorial Chair in Mining Work Health and Safety initiative. The inauguration of the MARS Centre at ECU's city hub on 1 November 2023, marked a pivotal moment in prioritising the wellbeing of...
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What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination, and Bullying from 29 April 2024 to 05 May 2024.

One in seven people admit to using technology to sexually harass colleagues at work New data from Australia's National Research Organisation for Women's Safety (ANROWS) has revealed that one in seven people are using tech platforms to sexually harass their colleagues. More than 3,000 people across the country were surveyed, with men more than three times more likely to harass their colleagues using work email, social media, and text. Perpetrators frequently admitted to doing this to humiliate and frighten their targets, rather than to engage in a sexual relationship with them. Young people and women were particularly at risk of this kind of harassment, with work and personal emails and phones most used by perpetrators.  According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 26% of women who experienced sexual harassment did so at work, with 57% subjected to it electronically. Reducing sexual harassment in the workplace is a key element of...
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What’s been happening in Australia in relation to sexual harassment, discrimination, and bullying from 22 April 2024 – 28 April 2024

Survey finds that 4 in 10 Aussies check work emails while on leave  According to a new report from Robert Walters, 4 in 10 employees across Australia are checking their work emails even when on annual leave, The report found that employees are using their holiday time to catch up on work-related tasks as 63% don't feel like their annual leave entitlement is enough to switch off and take a break. The report also indicates that nearly 71% of employees say they don't feel ‘refreshed’ after returning from an annual leave break.  In Australia, lawmakers passed a new Right to Disconnect that will allow employees to ignore attempts of work-related contacts outside their shifts in certain circumstances. The aim of this new law is to create legal permission to disconnect without fear of work-related repercussions.  Worker disputes dismissal date after failing to open email account  The Fair Work Commission (FWC) recently dealt...
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What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 15 April 2024 – 21 April 2024

Project Manager Quits During Investigation into Workplace's 'Toxic Culture' The Fair Work Commission (FWC) recently dealt with an unfair dismissal case involving a project manager who resigned from his employment during a workplace investigation. The key issue was whether the worker's resignation amounted to a (constructive) dismissal under the Fair Work Act. In this case, the FWC had to determine if the employer's actions left the worker with no choice but to resign. The worker was employed as a project manager in March 2021. In mid-2023, issues arose regarding the payment of a Site Uplift Allowance (SUA). The worker and several employees received the SUA in their contracts, but two of their co-workers “were stood down over the SUA issue.” Due to this incident, the worker said that there was “unrest among employees.” The worker called a meeting with the managing director and other staff members to discuss the matter....
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What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 08 April 2024 – 14 April 2024

First Successful Safework NSW Prosecution for Discriminatory Conduct Under The WHS Act Employers will be familiar with Australia’s anti-discrimination laws. However, a lesser-known protection that often falls under the radar is in the anti-discrimination provisions of work health and safety legislation. In this case, SafeWork NSW succeeded in what appears to be the first prosecution for discriminatory conduct under the NSW safety laws. The District Court of New South Wales accepted that an employee had been discriminated against under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW) (WHS Act) when he was stood down after exercising his rights as a workplace health and safety representative. At the time, the employee, Mr Seremetidis (the Employee), was a high lift truck driver and an elected health and safety representative (HSR) working for Qantas Ground Services Pty Ltd (QGS) at Sydney International Terminal. Section 85 of the WHS Act empowers a HSR to...
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What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 01 April 2024 – 07 April 2024

Female Tradies in Australia Changing Their Names To Get Job Interviews Because: “We Don't Hire Women and We're Not Going to Interview You” Female tradies in Australia are altering their names to appear more masculine in an attempt to land an interview with a potential employer, according to reports. Hacia Atherton, Empowered Women in Trades chief executive and founder, shared with 9News the discrimination faced by women in traditionally male-dominated trade industries. "Some of these women have been calling over 30 employers trying to get an interview for vacancies that are being advertised and these women are actually being told: 'We don't hire women and we're not going to interview you,'" she told 9News in an interview. "Gender doesn't make you a good plumber or a bad plumber," she told 3AW. "It's your skills, your ability to problem solve, your ability to use your hands. It doesn't matter if you're a...
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What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 25 March 2024 – 31 March 2024

Can a Break-Up Lead to Unjust Dismissal? The Fair Work Commission recently dealt with an unfair dismissal case involving a worker who claimed she was wrongfully terminated by her former partner when their romance broke down. In August 2023, the worker and her employer's personal relationship broke down, leading to significant hostility between them. The employer issued a letter to the worker, alleging that she had made 12 unauthorized transactions from the company's bank accounts and had attempted to prevent him from operating the business by changing the password for its email account. The worker declined to attend a meeting to discuss the allegations, and the employer subsequently sent her a termination letter on September 2, 2023. The FWC found that the personal and professional relationships between the worker and her employer overlapped significantly, with the boundaries between business and personal expenditure being unclear. There was a significant degree of...
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What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 18 March 2024 – 24 March 2024

Landmark AHRC Project to Improve Prevention and Response Strategies for Sexual Harassment at Work The Speaking from Experience Project invites people, especially those from minority groups, who have experienced workplace sexual harassment to help Sex Discrimination Commissioner Dr Anna Cody and the team to improve prevention and response strategies in Australian workplaces. “Speaking from Experience is a pivotal step forward in our collective efforts to prevent workplace sexual harassment and promote safer, more inclusive and diverse workplaces,” Dr Cody said. “By listening to people who have been sexually harassed at work, we can drive meaningful change and create workplaces where everyone feels respected, valued, and safe.” In-person consultations in Perth with Dr Cody and victim-survivors of workplace sexual harassment will commence this week. People who wish to make a written or audio submission to the AHRC can go to the Commission’s website for more information. Stereotypes, Discrimination, and Biases Against...
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What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 11 March 2024 – 17 March 2024

Custody Officer at a Justice Complex Unfairly Dismissed The Fair Work Commission heard an unfair dismissal case in relation to a worker who was dismissed from his position as a custody officer at a justice complex (court). The worker was involved in an incident with a Person in Custody (PIC), during which the worker head-butted the glass portion of the PIC's cell door. Following an investigation into the worker's behaviour, the employer terminated his employment. The worker argued that his termination was unfair, citing factors such as insufficient support from the employer, understaffing, and his admission of the conduct as mitigating factors. The worker and his colleagues testified about the challenging work environment at the FJC, including understaffing, high turnover of experienced staff, and the need to deal with difficult Persons of Interest (POIs) and PICs. The FWC recognised the importance of psychosocial health in the workplace, particularly in environments...
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What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment,  Discrimination and Bullying from 4 March 2024 – 10 March 2024 

Mental Health Commission Fails to Offer Psychological Safety Internally  SafeWork NSW found the state’s Mental Health Commission has breached workplace health and safety legislation over its management of bullying and other issues of the organisation’s culture.  A SafeWork NSW spokesperson said on Wednesday: “SafeWork NSW last week issued three improvement notices to the Mental Health Commission regarding the management of psychosocial hazards in the workplace including bullying, job and role clarity and work over- and under-load. SafeWork’s enquiries are ongoing and further comment is not available at this time.”  Former Female Staff at Sydney's Elite Cranbrook School Warn Of 'Toxic' Culture as it Prepares to Go Co-Ed  Teachers given fluffy handcuffs. Wolf-whistling and orgasm noises on playground duty. An attempted blackmail for nudes. Being told you can expect to be sexually harassed because you're good-looking. Victimisation, a toxic culture, a boys' club. These allegations by former female teachers and staff...
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What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 26 Feb 2024 – 03 Mar 2024

Worker who quit 'in the heat of the moment' did not constitute resignation The Fair Work Commission (FWC) recently dealt with a worker’s claim that his termination was ended at the employer’s initiative when he resigned “in the heat of the moment.” He asserted that the employer should have clarified his intention, especially since he left in an emotional state. Li maintained that he did not resign but left due to illness, supported by medical documentation. On the other hand, Vaux insisted that Li resigned and offered him re-employment under specific conditions, which Li rejected. Despite no explicit resignation letter, Li's actions, including leaving and returning to drop off keys and collect belongings, were interpreted by Malvern Tyres as resignation. However, the FWC found that the circumstances suggest a momentary emotional reaction rather than a genuine intent to resign. The FWC further said that Li had acted in a similar...
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What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 19 Feb 2024 – 25 Feb 2024

Family and domestic violence at work Safe Work Australia has updated the Family and domestic violence at work information sheet to reflect changes to the Fair Work Act 2009 around entitlements to paid family and domestic violence leave. Managing the risk of family and domestic violence at the workplace is complex and needs to be handled appropriately and sensitively. It becomes a WHS risk if the perpetrator makes threats, intimidates, or carries out violence on a partner or family member at their workplace, including if they are working from home. This information sheet provides guidance on how persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) can help provide a safe environment for workers and where to seek further advice. Check out the information sheet – Family and domestic violence at work and see the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website for information on changes to the Fair Work Act. Sexual Harassment and sexism is on the rise for women...
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What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 12 Feb – 18 Feb 2024

Case against Perfection Fresh one of the biggest workplace sexual harassment and assault cases in Australia Proceedings have commenced in the Federal Court, whereby 12 women, supported by the United Workers Union, are suing fresh product giant Perfection Fresh after working at Two Wells Glasshouse in South Australia and allegedly being sexually harassed. As reported by The Sydney Morning Herald, the women allege repeated sexual harassment from two men in positions of “authority, trust and control”. These allegations include instances of unwanted sexual advances, including grabbing the women’s bottoms and breasts, with one of the men accused of exposing himself to more than one woman. According to national plaintiff law firm Slater & Gordon and the UWU, this action is one of the biggest workplace sexual harassment and assault cases in Australia. Department of Infrastructure taking steps to reform workplace culture The Department of Infrastructure has said it is taking...
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What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Unfair Dismissal, Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 5 Feb – 11 Feb 2024

Employee accused of misconduct reinstated following 'deeply flawed' investigation The Fair Work Commission (FWC) has reinstated an employee of a mining company after his employer failed to conduct a thorough investigation into allegations of misconduct. The decision is a reminder for employers to ensure that they have the necessary expertise and procedures in place before conducting internal workplace investigations, particularly when there is conflicting witness accounts and limited documentary evidence. In March of 2023, the applicant was accused of instigating sexually explicit conversations with other male colleagues and sharing pornography on his mobile phone on a bus ride at the end of a work shift. Following its investigation, the respondent terminated the applicant’s employment on the basis that he had engaged in “inappropriate conduct of a sexual nature towards new female trainees.” The FWC held that the respondent did not have a valid basis for dismissing the applicant and ordered...
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What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 29 January 2024 – 4 February 2024

Government to Introduce New Provision Which Give Workers a Right to Disconnect The government is set to introduce a new workplace provision in the first sitting week of Parliament in 2024 which would allow workers to tell their boss to stop making unreasonable contact outside of work hours. Crossbenchers Senator Lambie and Senator Pocock have voiced their concerns with the measures in the remaining elements of the Closing Loopholes legislation. Additionally, the government has faced backlash from businesses over the proposed provisions. Bran Black, Business Council chief executive, demanded that the government consult on the proposed change (of which the details are confidential). Mr Black stated that “we are disappointed to see the government try to introduce the ‘Right to Disconnect’ amendment at the 11th hour with no consultation and no detail on what it will entail, and we fear it will be rammed through the parliament next week.” However,...
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What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 22 January 2024 – 28 January 2024

Lawyer Fired for Internet Browsing History Receives Compensation A lawyer claimed he was fired in relation to his internet browsing history, among other performance issues. His employer argued that it had a valid reason for his dismissal as the lawyer had “wasted” a significant amount of time on the internet instead of assisting a valuable client. In May 2023, the director of Chrysiliou IP Pty Limited expressed concerns about the lawyer’s perceived lack of responsiveness to a client’s legal matter. He told the lawyer in an email “I am a little concerned about this – as mentioned a couple of times before, the client has indicated that this is urgent yet no draft or even an email with an update has been sent to the client!” The lawyer was warned a final time in June 2023, with the director stating in an email “your lack of communication with the client...
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What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 15 January 2024 – 21 January 2024

Former ABC Presenter Antoinette Lattouf Says She Will “Fight for as Long as it Takes” in Unlawful Termination Case Antoinette Lattouf, a former ABC presenter and journalist, says that she will “fight as long as it takes” in her unlawful termination case against the broadcaster. Ms Lattouf lodged an unlawful dismissal case against the ABC after her five-day assignment presenting at ABC Radio Sydney was terminated two days early. According to her Fair Work Commission claim, Ms Lattouf submitted that the ABC informed her she had breached the organisation’s social media policy for posting content from Human Rights Watch in relation to the war in Gaza on her personal Instagram account. The unfair dismissal claim has alleged that Ms Lattouf, who is of Lebanese heritage, was dismissed based on her race. After the Fair Work Commission hearing on Friday this week, Ms Lattouf said that “the matter didn’t resolve today...
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