What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 14 September 2020 – 20 September 2020

A Call to Make Sexual Harassment a Criminal Offence

Commentators are calling for sexual harassment to be dealt with as a crime. Currently, sexual harassment is a legal wrong that gives its victims an entitlement to sue for damages. In other words, sexual harassment carries the same culpability as unfair dismissal, discrimination and bullying claims. If sexual harassment were made a criminal offence, the responsibility for identifying, prosecuting and punishing these wrongs would not just rest with its victims.

New Survey Will Examine Extent of Technology Facilitated Sexual Violence Against Women

A new study led by Monash University and RMIT will examine the extent to which technology facilitates sexual abuse and violence against women. Stage one of the Technology Facilitated Abuse project launched last week. The first stage of the project involves gathering advice from stakeholders who work with victims or perpetrators of technology-facilitated abuse. Stakeholder engagement will take place across various industries, including ‘human services, allied health, legal services, justice professionals and prevention programs, as well as domestic violence and sexual assault services.’ Led by Associate Profession Asher Flynn of Monash University and Associate Professor Anastasia Powell from RMIT University, the research will take place over the coming two years.

Another Big Company- Cleanaway Has Bullying Allegations Against CEO

Allegations of bullying and intimidation have arisen against Cleanaway Waste Management CEO Vik Bansal. The Australian Financial Review revealed that in June, Bansal was investigated over creating a ‘culture of bullying and harassment.’ Staff claimed he would swear at them and exclude women from promotion opportunities. Complainants who spoke to the AFR alleged the company’s board covered up Bansal’s behaviour for a number of years. The company has since responded to these issues, stating it implemented numerous measures – such as, ‘executive leadership mentoring, enhanced reporting, and monitoring of the CEO’s conduct’ – following the investigation into Bansal’s behaviour. ‘The Board of Cleanaway takes allegations of misconduct in the workplace very seriously,’ said a spokesperson. ‘Mr Bansal has acknowledged that his behaviour should have been better and expressed contrition,’ it continued. Since then, CFO of the Melbourne-based company, Brendan Gill, resigned and announced his retirement.

ABC Requesting FOI in Relation to Sexual Harassment Allegations of the Former Vice Chancellor of the University of Adelaide

The ABC has made a request under Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, requiring the University of Adelaide to collate basic information about complaints of sexual harassment incidents. The request comes in the wake of South Australia’s Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (ICAC) finding that the university’s former vice-chancellor Professor Peter Rathjen committed ‘serious misconduct’ by sexually harassing two women. Ironically, three years before the ICAC investigation, Rathjen addressed a report on sexual harassment at Australian universities. ‘We believe that one incident of sexual harassment is one too many,’ said Rathjen, then vice-chancellor of the University of Tasmania. The ABC has also requested ‘an itemised list of international and interstate travel undertaken by Professor Rathjen during his tenure, including associated travel costs and companions.’ The University of Adelaide estimated it would take 50 hours and $2,820 to compile the documents. The university’s FOI officer said it would not reduce or waive the almost $3,000 fee. ‘We do not accept that there is a public interest argument for information to be released free of charge,’ the officer said.

New Taskforce to Develop Gender Equality in Tennis

Vice President of Tennis Queensland, Paula Robinson, is set to lead a new Gender Equality National Taskforce. The Task Force will include experts across sport, academia and business. The group will advise on the development of Tennis Australia’s Gender Equality Strategy and to accelerate opportunities and pathways for females in tennis.

Five AirServices Employees Fired Following Inquiry into Bullying

Five employees at Airservices Australia have been dismissed as the agency crackdowns on bullying and harassment. Following the inquiry conducted by former Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick earlier this year, Airservices Australia sought to ameliorate breaches of its Code of Conduct. As a part of this attempt, five Airservices employees, including air traffic controllers, have been fired following complaints raised by Broderick’s report. In a public statement, Airservices Australia said it has a zero-tolerance approach to breaches of its staff code of conduct. ‘Our staff are required to strictly comply with the code of conduct, which explicitly prohibits all forms of bullying and harassment,’ a spokesperson said. ‘Breaches of the code of conduct may result in disciplinary action, including dismissal,’ the spokesperson continued.

Drop in Number of Women on Boards of Top 200 Companies

According to a Chief Executive Women (CEW) ASX200 report, the number of women on the boards of Australia’s top companies is falling. The report shows there were only 10 female CEOs in Australia’s top 200 companies in 2020 – the lowest number in four years. The report also showed few women in chief financial officer (CFO) roles. CFO is a springboard position to CRO, with 96 per cent of CEOs promoted from CFO. Chief Executive Women president Sue Morphet said she was ‘very disappointed with the results of the census.’

KPMG’s Mandatory Retirement Age of Partners in Direct Contrast to Actions of Two Partners

The two partners and one executive director at professional services firm KPMG sit on not-for-profit organisations that fight against age discrimination. This includes the Diversity Council of Australia, which aims to ensure employer decisions are free from any form of discrimination, and the Benevolent Society, which runs an advocacy campaign called EveryAGE Counts. This is all while the firm these partners and executive director work for retains its mandatory retirement age of 58 for partners. However, recent action from rival professional services firm EY to remove its controversial retirement age has prompted KPMG’s board to review the retirement clause at the end of August.

Professor Accuses University of Discrimination

A former professor has accused the University of Technology Sydney of racial and age discrimination, alleging his contract was not renewed for those reasons.