What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 15 – 21 August 2016

Channel 7 in the Spotlight for Alleged Adverse Action Against Taeuber Sisters
Sisters Amy and Sophie Taeuber have been sacked from Channel Seven after lodging a sexual harassment complaint against a senior male colleague. It is alleged that the senior colleague made statements of a sexual nature about Amy. Following this incident one of the sisters lodged a sexual harassment complaint. An internal investigation by human resources cleared the colleague.

Ten days later, Amy was accused of bringing Channel Seven into disrepute by blogging about My Kitchen Rules on her sister Kate’s reality TV website. Amy complied with the request of Channel Seven to take the website down. Channel Seven then accessed Amy’s work emails and made different allegations of “online misconduct.” In early July the investigation into Amy concluded that she was guilty of “serious misconduct” and she was offered the chance to resign with a confidentiality agreement. Amy was sacked a few days later. Sophie, a freelancer on Today Tonight, was not given another shift.

Amy has filed a general protections application for adverse action against Channel Seven. A conciliation hearing is scheduled for the 30th August.

Change the Conversation
I was fortunate to attend a breakfast on Wednesday 24th August and listen to 3 speakers discuss bullying. One of the speakers was Melanie Binet, who is the Deputy President of the Fair Work Commission. Melanie made a few valid points concerning the problems that arise in workplaces. In her experience in conducting workplace investigations pre her appointment to the Commission she observed that often managers were appointed because of their technical expertise and were then NOT given the extra skills needed to effectively manage staff, including workplace issues. Her strong recommendation was that time and money be invested in skilling up these managers to effectively manage staff AND that the most effective training was in-person (on-line did not result in behavioural improvements). she also said that the best results, in managing complaints, were where the issues were dealt with quickly and at the lowest level possible, with good policies and procedures underlying this approach.

2017 will see EEO Specialists offer a new comprehensive approach to skilling up senior managers/business owners and leaders. If you want to receive information about this course then please email franca@franca.com.au with the heading Management Course 2017

“It’s Just my Nature” is not a Legal Excuse for Inappropriate Behaviours
Guillermo Diaz applied for an unfair dismissal remedy (Diaz v Anzpac Services Pty Ltd [2016] FWC 5305) in relation to the termination of his employment by Anzpac Services, a printing company. Mr Diaz had received multiple written warnings between 2002 and 2012 for abusive behaviour towards another employee, confrontational behaviour including the use of racist comments towards another employee, ‘verbal assaults on people’ and behaving in an unacceptable manner by raising his voice, shouting and arguing with managers, crew leaders and peers. Mr Diaz had also received a verbal warning for raising his voice at another employee. Mr Diaz had attended several training sessions about bullying, discrimination and harassment since 2002 as well as a one on one refresher training session in 2009.

In March 2016 Mr Diaz was involved in two incidents with another employee. These incidents involved Mr Diaz yelling at the employee (who was standing about a foot away from him) and waving his arms in her face. Mr Diaz also yelled at the employee to “Go away!” when she asked how he was the next day.

The FWC considered that although this instance of misconduct alone would not have justified the termination of Mr Diaz’s employment, it did constitute a valid reason for dismissal in light of Mr Diaz’s “long record of repeated inappropriate behaviour.” The FWC noted that Mr Diaz’s behaviour – “most obviously getting angry and shouting at his colleagues when something did not go his own way” – could not be justified by Mr Diaz simply claiming that this was his nature, or that he had a loud voice.

Accordingly, the FWC found that Mr Diaz’s dismissal was not unfair.

Well done FWC. Just recently I conducted Value Based training with a workplace and talked about some of the excuses that some workplaces think justify a person’s inappropriate behaviours of which “just the way I am” is one of them. Well done FWC for holding this excuse up to the light and making it clear that when the behaviour is inappropriate it is inappropriate regardless of whether it is someone’s nature. For further information on the courses offered by EEO Specialists you can call Franca on (08) 6102 4411.