What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 11 – 17 January 2016

Cyber Bullying Rife in Public Sector
A Queensland University of Technology study involving more than 600 public sector workers has revealed that 72% have suffered or witnesses cyber bullying at work during the previous 6 months. These findings indicate a larger problem than the Australian Public Service Commission’s State of the Service report for the 2014-15 period in which 17% of public servants reported being bullied or harassed in the past year.

Dr Felicity Lawrence noted that the cumulative effects of cyberbullying might potentially be more intense than face-to-face bullying as cyberbullying “crosses work and home boundaries and can follow [victims] from job to job, state to state.” The participants in the QUT study indicated that there is a “kind of ‘cyber-underground’ that has created a hidden negative online workplace culture where some employees feel they are free to harass and bully one another and yet remain unaccountable for their behaviour.” Further, more than half of the workers surveyed viewed their organisation’s anti-bullying strategies as ineffective.

Employer Failed to make Reasonable Adjustment for Employee’s Disability
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal found that Independence Australia Services discriminated against former customer services officer Maureen Butterworth by failing to make adjustments for her workplace injury. In 2011 Ms Butterworth suffered a form of soft tissue injury to her neck and shoulders due to sitting for extended periods of time at a computer and answering high numbers of telephone calls. For the next 12 months, Ms Butterworth was given modified duties. In 2013 IAS terminated Ms Butterworth’s employment citing her ongoing and indefinite inability to perform the requirements of her position. VCAT determined that by terminating Ms Butterworth, IAS was in breach of sections 18 and 20 of the Equal Opportunity Act 2010. IAS failed to make reasonable adjustment including moving other customer service operators so that Ms Butterworth would be able to work outside the call centre and avoid aggravating her injury. IAS was ordered to pay $13,325 to Ms Butterworth.

Labor General Secretary Resigns After Sexual Harassment Allegation
NSW Labor general secretary Jamie Clements has resigned following sexual harassment allegations. It was alleged that Mr Clements sexually harassed Labor staffer Stefanie Jones last year. Mr Clements disputed the allegations and has not been charged with an offence. Mr Clements had made several undertakings including that he will not approach Ms Jones for 12 months, and will not apply for an unrestricted pass to the NSW Parliament.