What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 12–18 June 2017?

Request to Halt Equity and Diversity Review for Vic Firefighters
The United Firefighters Union has filed a motion with the Victorian Supreme Court in an attempt to prevent the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) from completing an equity and diversity review of the Victorian Fire Services. The Union is also seeking a declaration that the review is beyond the powers of the VEOHRC. The VEOHRC review, which commenced in July 2016, is examining sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying within the Country Fire Authority and the Metropolitan Fire Brigade. The findings of the review were due to be released in August this year.

Allegations of Bullying by CPA Australia CEO
CPA Australia CEO Alex Malley has been accused of engaging in workplace bullying by three former employees. Tony Gleeson, the former Executive General Manager of CPA Australia, alleged that he was made redundant after raising his concern that Mr Malley had engaged in workplace bullying. CPA Australia has stated that the allegations of workplace bullying are not substantiated.

Bullying Issues Within QLD Health
The Australian Medical Association of Queensland’s Resident Hospital Health Check 2017 has highlighted the prevalence of bullying and harassment within the Queensland Health Service. The Health Check revealed that 50% of respondents feared negative consequences if they reported bullying or harassment. Only 23% of respondents felt that there were steps that they could take if they were subjected to or witnessed bullying.

The Townsville Hospital Health Service has taken action to improve workplace culture. This action has included establishing an anonymous email address for employees to report workplace bullying or harassment. Since November 2016, 82 complaints have been made through this forum, with 67 of these complaints relating to workplace bullying or harassment. Dr Andrew Johnson, Executive Director of Medical Services has stated that the Townsville Hospital Health Service will work with the Australian Medical Association of Queensland to make further improvements to workplace culture.

Interim Stop Bullying Orders Made
The Fair Work Commission has made interim orders (in the case of Kypuros [2017] FWC 3082) in an anti-bullying application. Ari Kypuros applied to the FWC for an anti-bullying order, alleging that he is the subject of verbal abuse in his workplace, directed at him by his uncle, Costa Kypuros. It is alleged that the behaviour directed at Ari includes: ridicule of his personal achievements, physical intimidation; insinuating that he is a liability to the company; mentioning that he is destined for failure in future professional endeavours; and undermining him in front of other staff and customers. Commissioner Wilson stated that it was necessary to make interim orders in these circumstances to prevent the further escalation of inappropriate comments, arguments and confrontations into acts of physical violence. In this case, orders were made to the effect that Ari Kypuros and Costa Kypuros must not directly communicate with one another by any means while at work, cause another person to communicate an abusive/offensive or disparaging massage to the other, or come within 10m of each other. Further, Commissioner Wilson ordered that Mag Wheel & Tyre Pty Ltd must provide the FWC with a proposal for the implementation of workplace bullying training into the workplace as well as the formulation and implementation of policies and procedures designed to avoid workplace bullying or other inappropriate conduct in the workplace.

Two Acts of Inappropriate Behaviour Constituted Bullying
Darren Lacey and Chris Kandelaars applied to the Fair Work Commission for bullying orders (in the case of Lacey and Kandelaars v Murrays Australia Pty Limited; Cullen [2017] FWC 3136) against Andrew Cullen and Murrays Australia Pty Ltd.

Mr Kandelaars alleged that Mr Cullen engaged in inappropriate behaviour including: finding faults in his work even when there are none, proceeding straight to unreasonably disciplinary action, waiting for Mr Kandelaars to make a mistake in order to “rush downstairs to attack” him and becoming enraged and raising his voice when his views are opposed.

Mr Kandelaars identified two incidents where Mr Cullen had engaged in unreasonable behaviour in the workplace. The first incident occurred when Mr Cullen confronted Mr Kandelaars about his failure to clean the bus that he had been driving. Mr Kandelaars informed Mr Cullen that he could not clean the bus as he had worked for 14 hours and working beyond this point would have put him in conflict with fatigue laws. Although Mr Kandelaars produced his logbook that evidenced this fact, Mr Cullen was unsatisfied and suggested that Mr Kandelaars should report his hours in a different manner in order to make use of a “loophole” within the system. The second incident occurred when Mr Cullen requested that Mr Kandelaars sign a damage report for a scratch under the bumper of a bus, despite the fact that the scratch had been there for a number of years and the driver who damaged the bus could not be identified. The FWC concluded that Mr Cullen’s behaviour on these two occasions was unreasonable behaviour and was not reasonable management action carried out in a reasonable manner.

Similarly, Mr Lacey identified two incidents where Mr Cullen had engaged in bullying behaviour behaviour. The first incident occurred in October 2015 when Mr Lacey was required to drive a vehicle that he was unfamiliar with. Before driving the vehicle, Mr Lacey took a number of photos of damage that had been done to the vehicle and emailed these photos to ensure that they would have a time and date stamp. The next day, Mr Cullen approached Mr Lacey and asked him why the damage to the bus had not been reported. Although Mr Lacey explained the situation, Mr Cullen told him that the steps he had taken were “not good enough” and threatened Mr Lacey by reminding him that he was still on probation. The second incident occurred in December 2016, when Mr Cullen refused a reasonable request by Mr Lacey to reschedule a meeting and refused Mr Lacey’s request for a support person to attend this meeting.

The FWC held that Mr Kandelaars and Mr Lacey had been subjected to repeated unreasonable behaviour whilst at work and that the behaviour was not reasonable management action carried out in a reasonable manner. Commissioner Roe did not make an anti-bullying order as he considered that the risk of Mr Cullen bullying these employees had been significantly reduced as a result of changes to Mr Cullen’s duties since March 2017. As Mr Cullen is no longer responsible for the supervision, assessment and discipline of drivers, Commissioner Roe considered that the risk of further bullying was reduced.