What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 11 January 2021 – 17 January 2021

Sexual Harassment Claim Lodged in the Federal Court Against IOOF

A former executive of wealth manager IOOF has accused the deputy chief investment officer and head of equities, Stanley Ye, of sexual harassment. In pleadings lodged with the Federal Court last month, the female executive alleged that Mr Yeo sexually harassed her on three occasions, made sexist and derogatory remarks throughout the course of her employment and engaged in inappropriate touching on her wedding day. This included Mr Yeo remarking that it ‘just isn’t the case’ that women are smart and capable in the office. Mr Yeo also reportedly brushed off all concerns about his behaviour, stating that he ‘was gay, and so it really didn’t matter’ when ‘he touched [the female executive] like that.’ Following these incidents, the woman claimed that she received less favourable treatment at work and was declined a promotion. In a secondary claim, the woman also alleged that her direct boss, Osvaldo Acosta, the Head of Fixed Interest Assets at IOOF, made offensive remarks at work. Allegedly, Mr Acosta said that the woman ‘always g[a]ve [her] opinions.’ And that, ‘not only do I have a wife at home, I have you here in the office.’ The woman has claimed for damages for loss of opportunity, loss of future income and for humiliation and distress she suffered while at the group. IOOF has defended the claim, stating that the company ‘is committed to providing a safe and secure environment that embraces diversity. Once the complaint was raised, which was after the complainant’s departure, IOOF immediately commenced its formal grievance handling processes.’ ‘IOOF is confident that it has acted appropriately at all times and continues to support the legal process,’ the spokesperson added. These allegations against IOOF are the latest in a string of embarrassing scandals to hit Australia’s financial services industry.

Sexual Harassment Claim Upheld and Respondent Ordered to Pay Extra Costs

The NSW man who defended his actions against a female employee by likening himself to Jane Austen’s romantic hero Mr Darcy, will have to pay even more in compensation. Owen Hughes made headlines after making numerous advances towards his co-solicitor, Catherine Hill, in 2015. Initially, the Federal Court found against Mr Hughes and ordered he pay Ms Hill $170,000 in damages. However, on Friday, the Full Federal Court ordered Mr Hughes also pay interest at a rate of six percent as well as Ms Hill’s costs on an indemnity basis. In doing so, the Court accepted that Mr Hughes’ appeal ‘wholly lacked merit and had been conducted in a delinquent fashion.’ ‘The pursuit of a meritless appeal for the ulterior purpose of harassing the Respondent is more than sufficient to warrant an order that the costs be paid on an indemnity basis,’ the Full Court wrote in their judgment.

Senior Hockeyroos Employee Resigns Amidst Allegations of Bullying

Performance Director Toni Cumpston has resigned from Hockey Australia amidst an independent inquiry into the culture at Hockeyroos. Since her appointment in December 2016, Cumpston had been the subject of various complaints from past and present players. Despite Hockey Australia Chief Executive Matt Favier praising Cumpston’s leadership, the independent inquiry followed a host of allegations of bullying, body shaming and homophobic behaviour within the organisation. While Cumpston has not addressed the allegations, she cited in her resignation letter that she had lost the support of the Hockey Australia board. ‘I feel I have been left with no choice but to resign from my position as it is untenable to continue in the present circumstances,’ Cumpston wrote. ‘I was brought into Hockey Australia to address many of the problems that have existed within the organisation for a long period, including serious allegations of bullying and behavioural issues,’ she said. ‘I have worked assiduously to improve the culture of Hockey Australia and our national sides, and in doing so I have always received strong support and encouragement from management and the Board,’ the letter continued. ‘However, in a very short space of time it has become evident that I no longer have the support of the Board of Hockey Australia to continue this work,’ she explained.