News

What’s been happening in Australia in relation to sexual harassment, discrimination, and bullying: July 15-21, 2024

Woolworths employee alleges Brad Banducci “vicariously liable” for sexual harassment  Marc Estonina, a shelf stacker at Woolworths Caringbah is personally suing outgoing Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci over claims he should be held vicariously liable for sexual harassment and discrimination. The claim against Banducci was filed in the Federal Court last month with allegations that, while Estonina was working as a front-end team member, he was discriminated against based on his gender and sexual orientation.  Estonina, who started with the company in 2007 and is self-represented on the matter, claims Banducci breached sections of the Fair Work Act that relate to a company’s responsibility to ensure its workers are not discriminated against based on their sexual orientation or age. He also alleges Banducci should be forced to take responsibility for sexual harassment he experienced while working in the store. The claims do not suggest that Banducci personally discriminated against or sexually harassed Estonina, just...
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What’s been happening in Australia in relation to sexual harassment, discrimination, and bullying: July 8-14, 2024

Survey finds 1 in 5 Australians admit to perpetrating sexual violence The inaugural Australian Sexual Offence Statistical (ASOS) collection report reveals the prevalence and nature of sexual offending across Australia for the first time.  The Sexual Offending in Australia 2021-22 report from the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) brings together data on sexual offences, alleged offenders and victim survivors from state and territory police sources. It covers a one-year period from 1 July 2021 to 30 June 2022.  One in five Australians admit to perpetrating sexual violence, which has been found in new figures from the AIC. The survey of more than 5,000 anonymous adults revealed that the most common forms of sexual violence involved pressuring or manipulating someone into having sex. ABC's Rachel Hayter reports.   Dr Christopher Dowling, research manager at the AIC, authored the report after talking to people aged between 18 to 45. Respondents were asked a series of...
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What’s been happening in Australia in relation to sexual harassment, discrimination, and bullying: July 1-7, 2024

Dismissal ruled unfair by FWC despite valid reasons from employer The Fair Work Commission (FWC) recently dealt with an unfair dismissal case involving a casual forklift driver and a marble and ceramic company. The dispute was around the worker's reliability, safety practices, and an eye injury he sustained on the job. In a decision that underscores the importance of procedural fairness in terminations, the Commission found the dismissal unfair despite acknowledging valid reasons for the employer's concerns.  The company's director stated that the worker had been warned both verbally and via text messages in July 2023 about the need to improve his communication and provide advance notice if unable to attend agreed shifts. On the other hand, the worker asserted he was unfairly dismissed after providing a medical certificate for his eye injury. He also claimed he was pressured to work despite being certified as unfit for duty. The worker's wife provided a...
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What’s been happening in Australia in relation to sexual harassment, discrimination, and bullying: 24-30 June, 2024

Principal lawyer reprimanded for behaviour during scandalous company retreat Benjamin Aulich, principal of Aulich Lawyers, was found guilty of professional misconduct and received a reprimand and a $20,000 fine for his behaviour during a continuing professional development weekend training retreat with his employees in February 2021. This included taking his pants off during a card and drinking game, performing a cabaret dance with a rose between his teeth, and looking the other way when an explicit colouring book was circulated among his employees during a training session on mental health. ACT’s Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) presidential member Geoffrey McCarthy said the matter was not about “morals and prudishness” but rather the “professional obligation on a legal practitioner” to behave consistently with what the community expects. The card game, which occurred on the first night as a “spontaneous rather than premeditated” activity, required the players to “do something” when a...
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What’s been happening in Australia in relation to sexual harassment, discrimination, and bullying: 17-23 June, 2024 

Nearly half of Australian workers are stressed as workplace bullying persists  Gallup’s latest State of the Global Workplace report finds that 48% of Australian workers experienced a lot of stress the previous day in 2023, as the country continues to crack down on bullying and harassment in the workplace. In addition to high levels of stress, 20% say they felt sad, and 15% felt angry the prior day. The report reveals that just 21% of Australian employees are engaged at work, and 12% are actively disengaged. This lack of engagement could cost Australian companies over $220 billion annually in lost opportunity, equating to 9% of the nation’s GDP.   Globally, employee engagement stagnated at 23% in 2023 after multiple years of steady gains. The majority of the world’s employees continue to struggle at work and in life, with direct consequences for organisational productivity.  The report finds that 74% of Australian workers see now as...
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What’s been happening in Australia in relation to sexual harassment, discrimination, and bullying: June 10- 16, 2024 

Stronger laws to protect workers from discrimination and harassment The government has introduced landmark legislation ensuring that Queensland workers will be safer than ever at work. Building on the historic Respect@Work Report and Queensland’s Plan for the Primary Prevention of Violence Against Women, the Respect at Work and Other Matters Bill will protect all workers - especially women in Queensland – from harm and harassment in the workplace.  National evidence shows female workers are more likely to be subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace:  89% experiencing sexual harassment at some point in their lifetime 77% of all workers have been sexually harassed in their lifetime  In the Respect@Work: National Inquiry Report, Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins  said sexual harassment was a societal issue that impacted productivity.  The Jenkins report also made clear that harassment in the workplace is not inevitable and is preventable.  The Bill will include:  new prohibitions of...
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What’s been happening in Australia in relation to sexual harassment, discrimination, and bullying: June 3-9, 2024

Australian companies ignorant of new sexual harassment laws  Almost a dozen large Australian companies and government departments have been the subject of significant sexual harassment complaints in 2024. However, many companies are ignorant of a change in law from earlier this year which puts a positive duty on companies – big and small – to prevent workplace sexual discrimination and sexual harassment.  Sex Discrimination Commissioner Anna Cody was interviewed by Sky News Business Editor Ross Greenwood about what this change in law means for workplaces across Australia.   Company fined, convicted in bullying prosecution case This incident occurred in August 2021 where the director was abusive, yelled and swore at a subcontractor over the phone when he questioned working during COVID-19 lockdowns. A subsequent investigation conducted by Worksafe Victoria revealed that other workers had also been subjected to bullying behaviour by the director.  In the Victorian Magistrates Court, Worksafe Victoria set...
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What’s been happening in Australia in relation to sexual harassment, discrimination, and bullying: 27 May – 2 June, 2024

Report finds that sexual harassment is rife inside Australian parliament  A landmark review has found that more than half of employees in Australia´s federal parliament have experienced bullying, sexual harassment or sexual assault. This report into its workplace culture was commissioned after a former staffer Brittany Higgins said she had been raped by a colleague in a minister’s office in 2019. Her story sparked a wave of wide-ranging allegations of misconduct that took place in Canberra. The report, titled Set the Standard, found that 51% staffers had experienced some form of bullying, sexual harassment or actual or attempted sexual assault. Some 37% of interviewees who still currently worked at the parliament said they had experienced some form of bullying while working there, while 33% said they had experienced some form of sexual harassment. It found that 63% of female parliamentarians had experienced sexual harassment - an even higher percentage than for political staffers. ...
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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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