What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 10 – 16 September 2018

Former Soldier Suing NT Govt Department Due to Bullying and Disability Discrimination
A former soldier has filed a suit against the Northern Territory Department of the Legislative Assembly for discrimination and bullying. Ben Harris, who worked at the department as sergeant-at-arms, had PTSD from having served a tour of duty in Afghanistan. He alleges that his supervisor, Michael Tatham, mocked the diagnosis and suspended him when he took sick leave over hearing of a soldier friend attempting suicide. According to his psychologist, Mr Tatham sent a disciplinary letter that “humiliated” him. While Mr Harris suffered a “heightened risk of mental health deterioration” under Mr Tatham, his psychologist and psychiatrist both believed that working under a different supervisor would have alleviated and mitigated the issue. However, Mr Tatham blocked Mr Harris’ request for a departmental transfer. Having been suspended and subsequently demoted, Mr Harris is seeking lost wages and medical expenses in the ongoing trial.

Council Releases Confidential Medical Information of Councillor
A councillor of Whittlesea local government has had her confidential medical information disclosed to the public. Mary Lalios’ details were contained in a auditor’s report, in which she allegedly made a complaint against the council’s chief executive, Simon Overland, for workplace bullying. In the report by the independent investigator, Naomi Lenga dismissed Cr Lalios’ allegations. Cr Lalios has been on leave since April 2018 and was not involved in the investigation though she denies lodging a complaint for bullying under the Local Government Act. Cr Lalios requested her details to not be released by the Council but they decided to release them.

Latest Results About Workplace Sexual Harassment Released
Results from a ground-breaking national survey have revealed the pervasive extent of sexual harassment in the workplace. Kate Jenkins, the sex discrimination commissioner, unveiled the results from the survey of 10,000 people, which included industry-specific data for the first time. She said that in the last five years, one third of workers reported having been sexually harassed in the workplace, which is an increase from one fifth in 2012. The data indicates that while 39% of women and 26% of men were targeted, four out of five of the harassers were men. According to the industry-specific indicators, four out of five workers in the information, media and telecommunications industry were sexually harassed in the past five years. Nearly half of the respondents who formally reported the behaviour claimed that it had not resulted in any changes. The survey is set to form part of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s National Inquiry into sexual harassment in the workplace.

Bullying Allegations Within Liberal Party Continue to be Made
A Liberal Senator has had talks with the Prime Minister over party bullying. Senator Lucy Gichuhi relayed to Prime Minister Scott Morrison her account of bullying within the liberal Party. Subsequently, she retracted her former suggestion to publically voice the details of the bullying, including the names of those involved. As of yet, no formal complaints have been made within the party to federal whip Nola Marino, and nor have plans been announced for an internal investigation.

Striking Correction Officers Display Intimidating Behaviour to Non- Union Workers
The South Australian Premier has condemned the intimidating behaviour of striking corrections officers as “unacceptable”. In the wake of suggestions by the state government to privatise the Adelaide Remand Centre, the officers staged a protest, during which they yelled “shame” and “scab” at the non-union worker who substituted as the foyer guard. Premier Steven Marshall said that their conduct “should never, ever occur in the workplace” and noted that his government is “completely anti any bullying”. The chief executive of the Department of Correctional Services, David Brown, said that the “intimidating” behaviour was “in breach of the code of ethics”.

Vic. Senior Constable Suing Employer for Disability Discrimination
A senior constable is taking the Victorian Police force to court over discrimination. Stuart Wright was diagnosed with PTSD and severe anxiety following the Black Saturday in 2009. As a result, and in order to perform his work as a crime prevention officer, he was assigned Frankie the assistance dog, on whom he relies to work. Despite Mr Wright arguing that Frankie “improved the quality of [his] life”, a police inspector maintained that the dog posed a health and safety risk to his fellow officers. As there is no official workplace policy with respect to assistance dogs, Mr Wright was unable to return to his job and has been forced to take up an alternative non-operational role with the Licensing Regulation Division. Mr Wright argued he was discriminated against on the basis of his PTSD. In light of failed mediation attempts, his case has been sent to the Federal Court. A spokeswoman for the Victorian Police refused to comment on the case.

ACT Govt Set to Conduct Independent Inquiry into ACT Health Over Bullying Allegations
The ACT Government is set to conduct an independent inquiry into ACT Health over its alleged culture of bullying. This comes as the ACT branch of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) made calls for such an inquiry following Janet Anderson’s departure as ACT Health CEO only three days after being appointed. This, in conjunction with months’ worth of allegations of ingrained workplace bullying and harassment, prompted Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris to maintain that changes to the system’s leadership were already seeing improvements. According to the Antonio Di Dio of the AMA, a number of reasons motivated him to suggest the inquiry, notably the department’s “failure to act [on]” and their “mishandling” of harassment and bullying allegations. Steve Robson, the secretary of the AMA ACT, noted that a negative workplace culture is detrimental not only for employees but for also patients, whose quality of care and outcomes are put at risk.