What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 14 – 20 May 2018

Allegations of Toxic Bullying Workplace at Safe Services
The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services is investigating one of Australia’s major family violence services over allegations of bullying. Safe Services is one of three organisations that provide counselling over the 1800RESPECT family violence and sexual assault line. A former senior manager of Safe Services claims that two investigations are currently underway: a departmental investigation into Safe Services’ ability to provide services after a “critical mass of complaints”; and a union-led investigation into its bullying culture. However, Annette Gillespie, the chief executive, claims that the Department is not investigating Safe Services, but actually conducting a periodic mid-funding-cycle review, which is normal for an organisation that receives government funding. Despite Ms Gillespie’s assurances, the senior staff member maintains that she was bullied, and that other staff were undermined, had their decisions interfered with and negated by people outside of those roles, and were subjected to “aggressive outbursts including physical gestures, tantrums”. Another anonymous former employee spoke of needing counselling after leaving Safe Services a “shell of [her]self”. Other former staff members have confirmed that the department is investigating, and that Safe Services has both a toxic workplace and issues with bullying.

New Firm Implements New Dating Policy in Workplace
Leading law firm, Herbert Smith Freehills, has implemented a new policy regarding relationships in the workplace following the suspension of one of its partners over sexual harassment allegations. Under ‘Personal Relationships in the Workplace’, partners and staff must disclose their personal relationships with colleagues. However, the firm has been cautious not to prohibit personal relationships altogether. Indeed, employees are required under the guidelines to “use common sense in asserting whether or not this policy is relevant to their circumstances”. In its changes, Freehills has also introduced a third-party whistleblowing platform managed by KPMG. Staff members may use the line to report any misconduct, professional wrongdoing or harassment.