What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 1–7 May 2017?

Cth Govt Enquiry into Gender Segregation in the Workplace
The Commonwealth Government is currently conducting an inquiry into gender segregation in the workplace and its impact on women’s economic equality. The Australian Human Rights Commission has made a submission to this inquiry. In this submission, the AHRC recommended, “the Commonwealth Government should develop and commit to a strategy for becoming a model ‘industry’ in reducing gender segregation.” The AHRC suggested that the Commonwealth Government could address gender segregation through its role as an employer, in policy and program design/development and when contracting. One of the strategies proposed by the AHRC to address gender segregation was that the Commonwealth Government “should require contracted organisations to demonstrate efforts to improve gender balance, with an ultimate goal of reaching a 40:40:20 gender balance.”

Dept of Health Investigations for Inappropriate Behaviour Increases Slightly
The number of employees of Department of Health that have been investigated for harassment, misuse of public resources and providing misleading and deceptive information has increased since 2015-2016. Information released under freedom of information laws has revealed that the Department of Health launched probes against 20 employees for conduct violations in the first ten months of 2016-2017. By contrast, in 2015-2016, only seven investigations occurred. A spokeswoman from the Department of Health has stated that this increase occurred “primarily as a result of increasing the staff numbers in 2015 by 28 per cent – when major program areas like Aged Care came back into Health from the Department of Social Services.” The spokeswoman also noted “encouraging and empowering staff to call [out] unacceptable behaviour has had a resulting impact on complaint numbers.”

QLD Detective Dismissed for Sexual Harassment
The Queensland Police Service has confirmed that Detective Senior Sergeant Paul Jackson has been dismissed following an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment. It was alleged that DSS Jackson “verbally harassed female police officers, administration staffers and government departmental workers” during his time in charge of the Child Protection Investigation Unit. During the two-year investigation into these allegations, DSS Jackson served in a “non-supervising” role at another police station. Following this investigation, DSS Jackson’s employment was terminated.

Employee Fairly Dismissed for Sending Abusive Emails from Work Account
Fair Work Deputy Commissioner Geoff Bull has confirmed that Murdoch University was entitled to dismiss employee, Stephen Hayes, who sent aggressive emails to a staff member at the Australian Bureau of Statistics. On 5 August 2016, Mr Hayes sent an email to the ABS from the Murdoch University email address, with the University’s logo and Mr Hayes’ signature block. In the email, Mr Hayes said:
Who the f*** do you think you are changing the scope of the census by collecting my family members’ personal data electronically to be stored indefinitely. My family’s personal information is none of your f***ing business!
The ABS notified Murdoch University of the receipt of this email. On 10 August 2016, Mr Hayes sent another email from his Murdoch University email address to the ABS. In the email, Mr Hayes said: “Please send me a fine, PLEASE, I really want to have my day in court now you bunch of f***ing buffoons!” Murdoch University conducted an investigation into Mr Hayes’ conduct and concluded that Mr Hayes breached the University’s Code of Conduct. The University determined that Mr Hayes’ conduct constituted serious misconduct warranting summary dismissal. Mr Hayes was dismissed on 9 December 2017.

Mr Hayes lodged an application for an unfair dismissal remedy in respect of the termination of his employment, claiming that the sending of these two emails was unrelated to his employment. Further, Mr Hayes claimed that the emails were not “deliberately or intentionally written to damage the University’s reputation” and there was no evidence that reputation damage had in fact been caused.

Deputy Commissioner Bull held that Mr Hayes had willfully engaged in misconduct, which provided the University with a valid reason to terminate his employment. In these circumstances, Deputy Commissioner Bull found that Mr Hayes had engaged in misconduct by using “vulgar and offensive” language within an email that identified the University and Mr Hayes’ role at the University. It was noted that, “while the language used by Mr Hayes may be common vernacular in some circles, when reduced to writing and addressed to a specific recipient not personally known to Mr Hayes, such language has an element of intentional abuse and cannot be regarded under any circumstances as acceptable language.” Further, Deputy Commissioner Bull found that, in sending these emails from his University email address, Mr Hayes had deliberately linked himself to the University. Deputy Commissioner Bull concluded that Mr Hayes breached the University’s Code of Conduct and Email and Electronic Messaging Guidelines. This provided the University with a valid reason to terminate his employment.