I was horrified but not surprised when I read of the recent stories around the sexual abuse and bullying of firefighters in the NSW Fire Brigade. I have, unfortunately heard of similar stories in the police department (with officers being tazered by other officers) in the military, in prisons and in Local Government depots.
I find it disturbingly ironic that those who are assigned the privilege to protect others are the ones who are hurting their own.
I was relieved to hear that the NSW Fire Brigade have accepted liability for the actions of their employees and apologised- a rare but important occurrence in these types of situations. While they have also stated they have taken measures to stop this type of behaviour I would like to know what these measures are and how effective have they been?
If I was responsible for implementing real changes then here is what I would do-
1. Create a confidential, independent service for past and present fire fighters to disclose incidences of previous abuse
2. Investigate every serious allegation of abuse by an independent agency
3. If allegations were substantiated then appropriately discipline the perpetrators and compensate the victims
4. If managers/supervisors witnessed or knew of the behaviour and did nothing then discipline them also
5. Independent assessment of the people in management and supervisory positions and recommendations for their suitability to be in those roles
6. Ensure the organisations policies and procedures are accurate, up to date and communicated to all staff, in relation to sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying and Grievance management
7. Train managers/supervisors in relation to their duty of care to provide a safe workplace- what does this look like and how do they respond?
8. Implement audits across the organisation to assess if the policies are being applied consistently
If you are in an organisation where bullying and sexual harassment occur then you have the right to ask for the behaviour to be stopped. You can do this either internally by going to the HR person or externally by making a complaint to either your State Equal Opportunity Commission, your State Worksafe (or equivalent) or the Fair Work Commission.
EEO Specialists work with organisations to minimise these types of unlawful behaviours occurring, if you would like assistance to create a safe and healthy workplace then call Sue Oliver on 08 6102 4411.