What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 10 – 17 May 2021

Women Get $3.4bn For Jobs, Domestic Violence And Sexual Harassment

The Federal Government this week announced a $3.4 billion fund to get mothers back into jobs, support those fleeing domestic violence and tackle sexual harassment in the workplace. The women’s budget statement included $20.5 million to implement recommendations from the Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkin’s Respect@Work report. This will see $5.3 million put towards programs to prevent workplace sexual harassment over three years. An additional $9.3 million will be provided over four years to fund the Respect@Work Secretariat to implement key recommendations. The Government has also committed to increasing legal assistance for workplace sexual harassment victims and more training for employers and managers. They will also amend the Workplace Gender Equality Act to require public-sector organisations to report to the WGEA on gender equality initiatives. The Agency itself will receive a $6 million boost to facilitate reporting of workplace harassment. The budget has also set aside $3.5 million for the Human Rights Commission’s review of parliamentary culture, called in the wake of Brittany Higgin’s allegations.

CCC Finds Queensland Police Services Unfairly Hired Women To Meet Gender Targets

A Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) investigation between December 2015 and October 2018 has found that Queensland Police Services (QPS) engaged in ‘corrupt manipulation’ and ‘discriminatory’ practices to achieve a 50 per cent female hiring target. The probe revealed QPS staff tasked with the strategy began to ‘manipulate processes, data, language and the truth’ to gratify the executive aspirations and their media image. The report found that an estimated 200 more meritorious male applicants would have been successful had the discriminatory practices not been implemented. The Police Commissioner, Katairina Carroll, said that the QPS accepted the report, which was tabled in state Parliament on Wednesday. She committed to implementing all recommendations as a matter of policy.

Reforming The Disability Discrimination Act Following The Sklavos Decision

There have been calls by People with Disability Australia and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre to introduce amendments to the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) to counter the effect of the Full Court of the Federal Court decision, Sklavos v Australian College of Dermatologists [2017] FCAFC 128. The DDA recognises a positive action may be required to avoid disability discrimination. Reasonable adjustment provisions hoped to achieve this by ensuring changes to structures, systems and practices are made to enable the full and effective participation and inclusion of people with disability in society. Sklavos reshaped this obligation by interpreting the DDA as requiring a person with disability to prove their disability was the reason a person failed to provide reasonable adjustment. This created a new legal hurdle to seeking reasonably adjustment. The PDA and PIAC wish to restore the original intention of the provisions by seeing changes made to the definition of direct and indirect disability discrimination and the introduction of a new provision clarifying that failure to provide reasonable adjustments to a person with disability constitutes discrimination.

Mandatory Vaccination Unfair Dismissal Claims Shot Down By Australia’s Fair Work Commission

In two decisions handed down last month, the Australian Fair Work Commission has found it was reasonable for two employers (one in the childcare industry, the other in the aged care industry) to implement mandatory flu vaccination policies. Both matters concerned the dismissal of employees who were sacked for refusing to receive a flu vaccine. In the Goodstart Early Learning Centre case, Ms Barber only provided vague medical certificates and unsubstantiated accounts of a prior allergic reaction to the flu vaccine. Goodstart determined she had not provided a valid reason to be exempt from vaccination and terminated her employment. The FWC took into account the nature of Goodstarts’ operations and the statutory obligations to ensure the safety of workers and children in its care, concluding the direction was lawful and reasonable, and Ms Barber’s failure to comply was a valid reason for dismissal. A week later, the FWC considered an application brought by a former receptionist at an aged care facility Sapphire Coast Community Aged Care. In dismissing her application, the FWC found that Sapphire Coast had acted in an objectively prudent and reasonable way in refusing to let Ms Kimber work and that without a flu vaccine, as Ms Kimber could not perform the inherent requirements of her job. These decisions indicate it may be necessary to direct employees to receive a vaccine where necessary to comply with health and safety operations. However, employers should not rely on these rulings as authority: the FWC has stressed that its findings relate to highly regulated and highly particular industries, where safety is of paramount importance. Whether an employer can require employees to be vaccinated will depend on the circumstances, including whether mandatory vaccinations are necessary to ensure health and safety in the workplace.

85% Of Women In The Music Industry Have Experienced Sexual Harassment

A new report has found that 85% of women in the Australian and New Zealand music industries have experienced sexual harassment. The research by Dr Jeff Crabtree is the first extensive study of this kind in Australia and New Zealand. The report noted that the sources of harassment varied, including patron to artist, bandmate to bandmate, artist to manager, manager to artist, label executive to artist, producer to artist, senior industry figure to junior industry figure, sound engineer to artist, tertiary music educator to student. Intimidation, threats to reputations and careers and the use of non-disclosure agreements are regarded as effective ways to maintain the status-quo in the male-dominated workplace.

Dismissal Upheld Against Employee For Posting Sexually Inappropriate Memes On His Personal Facebook

The case concerned an application for unfair dismissal. The applicant had been employed as a finance broker since 2013. He was summarily dismissed for serious misconduct after posting memes to his personal Facebook page, one containing sexual connotations to a female colleague. The applicant had received previous formal warnings for making sexist and derogatory comments. The respondent held a disciplinary meeting stating the conduct amount to social media misuse, misuse of company property and sexual harassment. The applicant contended the memes were not inappropriate as he did not have the respondent listed as an employer on social media. The applicant further contended that ‘all sorts of conduct’ was permitted at the respondent company, including racially provocative emails, racist secret Santa gifts and regular ‘aggressive or abusive’ conversations for clients and suppliers. The FWC found the conduct deemed appropriate at the company fell far below what objectively may be seen as normal at a workplace. Nevertheless, the applicant’s conduct was held to be ‘plainly inappropriate, if not also unlawful’, and constituted a valid reason for dismissal and fair and reasonable disciplinary process. The application was dismissed.

CFA Volunteer Receives $30 000 Settlement Over Bullying

A Country Fire Authority volunteer who was told by a senior colleague to “go hang yourself again and do a proper job of it this time” after previously attempting to take his own life has received a settlement of almost $30,000. Former lieutenant Gary Cuddy has battled with CFA management and the state government for more than five years over his treatment at the Dunolly fire station, where he was ostracised and routinely harassed by fellow officers. After making an official bullying complaint in 2016, the 10-year CFA veteran was subjected to false allegations that he had fondled the breasts of a woman involved in a motor vehicle accident and had acted inappropriately around female CFA officers. A medical assessment by Dr Geoffrey Hadwen found Mr Cuddy suffered from an ongoing depressive illness, which the doctor attributed to the “appalling culture of callous disregard and bullying by CFA administration”.

Craig McLachlan Defence Document Reveals New Allegations Of Sexual Harassment And Bullying

The ABC’s defence to Craig McLachlan’s defamation claim has been released by the NSW Supreme Court this week. It reveals new allegations by three actresses who have accused actor Craig McLachlan of sexually harassing them on the set of The Doctor Blake Mysteries TV series and the musical The Rocky Horror Show. It also alleges that Mr McLachlan bullied and intimidated actor Tim Maddren, who played the role of Brad in The Rocky Horror Show. Mr McLachlan is suing the ABC, Fairfax and an actress for defamation over reports in 2018 that he indecently assaulted, harassed and bullied his fellow cast members during the 2014 tour of The Rocky Horror Show. In an email to the ABC at the time, he strenuously denied all the allegations. In December, a Melbourne Magistrate found Mr McLachlan not guilty of seven indecent assault charges and six common assault charges relating to his alleged conduct towards four women while starring in The Rocky Horror Show. While Magistrate Wallington said she accepted some of the complainants’ evidence, she said it did not meet the high criminal standards required to prove the charges. The defamation case was stayed pending the outcome of the criminal proceedings, and the witnesses have yet to give evidence about the allegations in the ABC’s defence.

Free Online Anti-harassment Training Launched

The International Bar Association, The College of Law Australia and the Legal Policy & Research Unit have collaborated to develop a set of e-learning modules designed to assist individuals and organisations to make changes recommended in the Us Too? Bullying and Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession report. In 2018, a global survey found that one in two female respondents and one in three male respondents had been bullied in connection with employment. Furthermore, one in three female respondents had been sexually harassed in the workplace. The e-learning modules are free to access, and focus on bullying, sexual harassment, the role of individuals in driving positive change, and the importance of workplace action.

$17 Billion Cost Of Workplace Mental Health Issues Sparks Calls For More Help

A new report by the Australia Institute estimated the costs of workplace-related mental ill health could be $17 billion per year. The report linked those problems to excessive workloads, exposure to traumatic events on the job, workplace bullying and harassment and employment insecurity. The report found that between 15% and 45% of mental illness amongst employed people is linked to workplace factors. Total costs to society from workplace mental illness (such as direct costs to victims, economic and fiscal costs) are estimated at $15.8 billion per year.

Lamming Holds Onto His Parliamentary Committee Role

Andrew Laming has backed down on a promise to immediately resign from all parliament positions, claiming he is a victim of character assassination and that his conduct towards women has been misrepresented. Laming has returned to federal parliament after taking a month of paid leave to seek counselling and empathy training. The politician defended taking photographs of a woman without her consent, describing it as an ‘utterly entirely appropriate and innocent workplace photograph’. He further continued to deny harassing two female constituents online for several years, despite issuing a public apology for his behaviour in late March. Six weeks ago, Laming announced he would resign from all parliamentary positions with immediate effect. However, he has refused to step down as chair of a parliamentary committee on employment, education and training.

Former Melbourne Lord Mayor Apologises For Reprehensible Behaviour

The former Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Robert Doyle, has publicly apologised for his ‘ugly’ behaviour resulting from accusations against him of sexual harassment and misconduct by three women. Mr Doyle resigned as Lord Mayor in 2018 after two Melbourne city councillors accused him of sexual harassment, accusations he vigorously denied. A third woman came forward about his behaviour at a 2016 awards ceremony when he was chairman of Melbourne Health. A Department of Health investigation found Doyle’s conduct ranged from ‘sleazy’ to ‘serious misconduct of a sexual nature’. Another report commissioned by the City of Melbourne found he behaved in a sleazy and ‘sexually inappropriate way’. Mr Doyle did not take part in the inquiries for mental health reasons. In an interview this week, Doyle confessed to being deeply ashamed of his behaviour, but said that he felt compelled to speak against the allegations at the time.