What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 1 – 7 February 2016

Mothers Regularly Discriminated due to Having Children
A recent study undertaken by FlexCareers has indicated than 52% of mothers say that they have been discriminated against purely because they have children. Of the 400+ mothers surveyed, the survey found that 11% felt that they had an ideal flexible work arrangement, while 25% had resigned because their requests for flexible hours were denied. When asked to identify the most important factor in their career choice, almost half of the mothers surveyed identified a flexible work arrangement, followed by pay, and a passion for the role. Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Kate Jenkins said many working women had their most confronting experience of gender discrimination the moment they had babies.

People With Mental Health Issues Regularly Discriminated Against in Employment
A survey conducted on 1386 people with diagnosed mental illness has indicated that more than half of the people surveyed had not been hired because of their mental illness. Of the 992 participants who had been employed, 11% reported being avoided and 14% reported being discriminated against because of their mental illness. The most common types of discrimination that were reported included a lack of understanding about mental illness and how mental health problems affect behaviour and work performance. Other forms of discrimination reported included being forced to change roles, being made redundant or being judged or treated as incompetent. However 25% of participants reported being treated positively within their employment. Such treatment included being given flexible hours, being allowed time off, or being encouraged to seek professional help.

Gender Discrimination in Sport
Federal Sports Minister Sussan Ley and Australian Sports Commission chairman John Wylie have written to the 30 top-funded sporting organizations demanding changes to travel arrangements. It is claimed that these arrangements reflect gender discrimination; after the London Olympics, the medal winning female team flew economy class, while the less successful male team flew business class.

Use of s18C Racial Discrimination Act
Cindy Prior, employed in the indigenous unit at Queensland University of Technology has alleged that she has suffered “offence, embarrassment, humiliation and psychiatric injury­”, as well as ongoing fear for her safety, because of the actions and comments of the students, staffers and university. Mrs Prior asked several students who entered the university’s computer lab set up for indigenous students “whether they were Indigenous.” The students said they were not and she then said that the lab was for indigenous students and she asked the students to leave the area.

Several students made Facebook posts following the incident including a comment asking, “where the white supremacist computer lab is.” (as a joke to highlight that segregation of people based on race is ridiculous).

Following the incident Mrs Prior went home feeling stressed and unsafe, claiming that she was worried about a verbal or physical attack. Mrs Prior’s claim is that the Facebook posts were “reasonably likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate her” and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and contravened section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. Her claim is for $247,570.52 including lost wages.

The matter is in court and raises some interesting issues not only about s18 but also the Universities’ position in relation to offering segregated services for indigenous students.