What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 10 – 16 October 2016

Indirect Discrimination of Breast Feeding Mothers
The Bristol Employment Tribunal has ruled that EasyJet’s treatment of two female employees amounted to indirect sex discrimination. On their return from maternity leave, the employees requested to be rostered on shorter 8 hour shifts, or to be allocated to ground duties for an unlimited period of time, to allow the employees to express milk. EasyJet refused this request. EasyJet initially offered the employees unrestricted duty days of 12 hours, before agreeing that the employees could carry out ground duties for 6 months. However, EasyJet stated that any extension to this time period would be rejected, as breastfeeding was “a choice.”

The Bristol Employment Tribunal ruled that this conduct amounted to indirect sex discrimination. The Tribunal noted that EasyJet ignored medical advice and failed to carry out health and safety risk assessments or occupational health assessments. The Tribunal considered that the correct approach would have been to find the employees alternative duties within the organisation, suspend them on full pay or reduce their hours.

While this is a UK decision the outcome would be the same in Australia if not even more onerous as there is protection for breast-feeding under our Federal Sex Discrimination Act

Allegation Police Officers Targeted Due to Being Homosexual
Three officers and a former senior constable have alleged that due to their sexuality, they were targeted for drug testing during their employment at Newtown Police Station. It is alleged that the NSW Police selected the men for random drug testing “purely based on their homosexuality.” This allegation is supported by the fact that no other officer at Newtown Police Station was selected for drug testing at that time. The four men requested internal documents relating to the decision to investigate them for drug use. It is alleged that these documents will “show motivation by members of NSW Police to investigate them purely based on their homosexuality.” NSW Police have declined to comment on this matter as the case is the subject of legal proceedings.

Working Holiday Visa People Treated Badly
The Fair Work Ombudsman has released the findings of the Inquiry into Wages and Conditions of People Working Under the 417 Working Holiday Visa Program. This report indicates that backpackers are being subject to “underpayment or non-payment, unlawful deductions, sexual harassment, unsafe working conditions and other forms of exploitation.” The majority of backpackers surveyed indicated, “they were unlikely to complain about their working conditions in case their work was not signed off by the employer.” The FWO has made a series of recommendations focused upon enhancing the regulatory framework and enhancing information, education, compliance and support.