What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 1 – 7 October 2018

Lego Executive Suing for Unfair Dismissal Related to Alleged Discrimination Based on Family Responsibility
A senior Lego Australia executive is suing Lego Australia for unfair dismissal based on alleged discrimination. Robert Csano was the director of operations at Lego Australia. He had been working on secondment in Japan since 2016, pursuant to an international assignment agreement. However, he had to return to Australia to ‘care for his 16-year-old son’. On returning, he was fired without compensation or redundancy pay. Mr Csano claims that in early 2018, Lego Australia had offered making Mr Csano redundant with pay. However, after inquiring into the amount of pay, Lego Australia ceased to call it as such. Mr Csano claims that these inquiries in combination with his family responsibilities were the trigger for his termination. He claims that Lego Australia breached the assignment agreement by not finding him an alternative position or reinstating him substantially to his former position. He also argues that in light of having worked there for 18 years, the size of his pay and his seniority, a term of 12 months’ notice should have been implied into his employment contract. He is seeking more than $400,000 in compensation, as well as compensation for anxiety, pain and suffering.

Female Law Student Alleges Sexual Harassment in Job Interview With Barrister
A law student has alleged that barrister Charles Waterstreet engaged in sexually inappropriate conduct during a job interview. Sarah Knight, a second-year law student, has made her allegations as part of a joint complaint to the NSW Bar Association. She claims that in 2017, she went in to interview for a paralegal position with the prominent Sydney barrister. She says that the conversation would constantly revert to sex and pornography, and that Mr Waterstreet introduced her to a ‘porn star’ during the interview, produced a sex toy and interrogated her about her transgender father’s genitals. Three other women have made similar allegations in the joint complaint. President of the NSW Bar Association, Arthur Moses SC, said that “sexual harassment is not condoned in any manner by the NSW Bar… Every person has the right to work in an environment where they are safe and are not subject to unwelcome and/inappropriate conduct”.

Firefighters Union Prevents Release of Report Investigating Bullying and Sexual Harassment
The United Firefighters Union (UFU) has successfully prevented the release of an investigative report into bullying and sexual discrimination in the Victorian Fire Services. Despite efforts of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission to publish the controversial report, the Court of Appeal held that they did not have adequate power to conduct it in the first place, given that the fire services had not requested it. The report had initially been commissioned by the State government in response to claims of “everyday sexism” and a “hyper-masculine culture” in the Metropolitan Fire brigade and Country Fire Authority. Following the decision, Peter Marshall, the UFU boss, released a report commissioned by the union itself. In this report, it was suggested that the State firefighters were not tolerant of “discriminatory or improper behaviour”.

Bullying Allegations Proven in Relation to City of Burnside Councillor
The South Australian Ombudsman has found that a City of Burnside Councillor engaged in numerous acts of misconduct. Ombudsman Wayne Lines said that having investigated at the request of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, Lance Bagster did indeed bully his colleagues, councillors and staff. Mr Lines held that Mr Bagster acted in a way that was “entirely self-centred and counterproductive to the council’s efficient discharge of its functions”. He further held that Mr Bagster had directed particular animosity towards Mayor David Parkin. Mr Bagster called Mayor Parkin “lazy”, “immoral and wicked” and, in an email to the Mayor, likened him to the “architects of the Holocaust”. Mr Bagster has resigned from the Council but claimed that the Ombudsman acted improperly, with bias, considered irrelevant facts and did not properly take into account his evidence. Mr Lines noted that it would be untenable for Mr Bagster to serve as a councillor, and recommended the Council seek a court-ordered disqualification should he seek to be re-elected.

FWC Rules that Physio was Unfairly Dismissed with Suspected link to Disclosure of Pregnancy
The Fair Work Commission has ruled in favour of a physiotherapist who was unfairly dismissed on the basis of discrimination. Anju Das was formerly employed part-time with Complete Care Physio Group, under the supervision of Yasemin Arslan. As part of her work, Ms Das provided physiotherapy services at the Hallam Medical Centre. However, this ceased in late 2017 for reasons that neither party could agree on. Ms Das claims that Ms Arslan told her she would be replaced as the Centre sought male physiotherapists for their ethnic mix of patients. Ms Arslan insists that she explained the Centre was not happy with her treatment and had received complaints from its patients. Ms Arslan further claims that following the change of employment, she told Ms Das that she would look at bringing someone else in, which Ms Das denies. In January of 2018, Ms Das disclosed her pregnancy and argues that, following this, Ms Arsland treated her differently. Indeed, in March 2018, Ms Arslan terminated Ms Das’ employment. In the Complete Care Physio Employer Response Form, she alleged that this was due to Ms Das’ inability to retain clients and their high cancellation rate, their poor feedback and Ms Das’ suboptimal treatment of some clients. Commissioner Wilson stated that there was insufficient evidence to verify the veracity of these claims. Moreover, even if they had been true, they were never put to Ms Das with a direction to correct them. Indeed, the reasons given for her termination had not been included in any supervision reports, lending weight to the argument that Ms Arslan may have discriminated against Ms Das on the basis of her pregnancy. Ultimately, Commissioner Wilson held that the dismissal was disproportionate to Ms Das’ problems, if they could be made out. Given that she was not made aware of her failings or given the opportunity to rectify them, the dismissal was also unjust and unreasonable. He awarded her $2892 in compensation.