What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 11 – 17 June 2018

Complainant “Foolish and Misguided” – Dismissal Stands
The FWC has rejected a legal secretary’s unfair dismissal application. Linda Hanrick, who formerly worked at Meridian Lawyers, alleged that several members of staff had bullied and conspired against her. However, through an independent investigation, the firm dismissed those allegations as false and subsequently fired her for serious misconduct. Among other things, Ms Hanrick claimed that one senior lawyer called her “chook”, and principal lawyer, Sharlene Wellard, told her she was, “thick” and “evil”. She accused managing principal Paul Baker of, “ha[ving] it in for her and her family”, at which he was especially bewildered, not actually knowing her or her family. In a series of yet more bizarre circumstances, Ms Hanrick believed one lawyer had placed “satirical paraphernalia” on a table to intimidate her. In a conversation that was excerpted in the judgment, it came to light that she had inexplicably thought the letters “LSJ” – featured on the covers of Law Society Journals – to be an attack on her own name (the initials of which are LJH). Ms Wellard, who conducted three meetings with Ms Hanrick as part of the investigation, raised the possibility that the latter had concocted the allegations, which she denied. Ultimately, however, the FWC’s Deputy President Peter Sams concurred with the internal investigation. He determined that Ms Hanrick had made up “implausible or preposterous” allegations and that, “if ever there was a case where a dismissed employee was the foolish and misguided choreographer of their own downfall, this must be it”. He concluded that her “serious misconduct and her complete lack of contrition or regret for her conduct was incompatible with the continuation of her contract of employment”.