What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 13 – 19 June 2016

Bullying Dismissal for Micromanagement Upheld in Fair Work
In the recent case of Carroll v Karingal the Fair Work Commission has confirmed that the dismissal of Peter Carroll on grounds of bullying was not harsh, unjust or unreasonable. Karingal Inc submitted that Mr Carroll was dismissed as a consequence of engaging in serious and sustained bullying of staff under his management and supervision; and breaching Karingal’s Code of Conduct, its Work, Health and Safety Policy and its Bullying and Harassment Policy. Mr Carroll’s behaviour included making comments to his staff about the adequacy of their English expression, micromanaging staff, and speaking to staff in a manner that was “angry, aggressive and condescending.” The FWC accepted that it was Mr Carroll’s “belief that he was doing the best by his employer and his staff” but found that the “cumulative effect of his conduct and behaviours was one of significant and systematic micromanaging.” According the FWC found that this behaviour constituted a breach of Karingal’s Code of Conduct, its Work, Health and Safety Policy and its Bullying and Harassment Policy, and further, a valid reason for dismissal.

Stop Bullying Order Rejected by Fair Work
The Fair Work Commission has rejected the application of George Samuel for a stop bullying Order. Mr Samuel expressed to his employer that he wanted to extend his part-time hours and be provided with at least an additional day’s work. This extension could only occur if the employer was successful in obtaining additional external funding. Mr Samuel wrote a letter addressed to a member of the employer’s Board and to Ms Ramzan, in which he set out various aspects of dissatisfaction with the way that he was treated at work. Mr Samuel advised that he was experiencing various stresses at work, and this was having an impact on his personal health. Mr Samuel sought and obtained the assistance of the employer’s employee assistance program before he returned to work (after a period of urgent leave). Six months later, Mr Samuel sent a lengthy email to the Secretary of the employer’s Board, Mr Falzon, in which he raised workplace health and safety complaints and a pay claim. This email included reference to bullying in the workplace. Mr Samuel later advised his employer that he had made an application to the Commission for a stop bullying Order.

The FWC noted that three of the five of Mr Samuel’s complaints reflected what is essentially an underpayment of wages claim connected with a desire to increase hours of part-time work (e.g. ‘I need to be paid the same as my colleague who does the same job from now on.”) The Commission found that the employer acted entirely reasonably in respect to Mr Samuel’s complaint about underpayment of wages/increase in hours of work as the employer was legitimately constrained by its reliance on external funding. Mr Samuels final two complaints related to the management of workplace health and safety. In response to these complaints, the FWC found that Ms Ramzan, on behalf of the employer did not act unreasonably towards Mr Samuel. Rather, she responded to Mr Samuel in a polite and diplomatic manner and took considerable time and effort to provide a positive approach when she was required to identify deficiencies in his work.

CFO of Colliers Resigns in the midst of Sexual Harassment Allegations
CFO Sean Unwin has resigned and Colliers have entered into a private settlement with the complainant Mrs Marks after she sued him and Colliers for sexual harassment. For more information, her action was discussed in the previous weekly news.

The most recent sexual harassment case that went to court and then on appeal involved the international company, Oracle who were successfully sued and paid the female complainant $130,000 in compensation, plus legal expenses. It appears payouts in relation to sexual harassment are being taken more seriously now.