What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 15-21 May 2017?

Survey by Unions ACT Found 70% Young People are Bullied
A survey carried out by Unions ACT has highlighted the prevalence of bullying and discrimination in Canberra. Unions ACT surveyed 263 workers aged between 15 and 25. The survey found that 70% of respondents felt bullied or harassed in the workplace. One respondent reported that a higher-ranking employee constantly belittled them and often asked if they were “stupid” or a “retard.” Another 18 year old respondent reported that co-workers would “look at [her] in a sexual way and ask [her] about the size of [her] boyfriend’s penis.”

Unions ACT secretary, Alex White said that young workers “are constantly telling us they don’t know what their rights are, they don’t know they can say ‘no’ when they’re directed to work in an unsafe workplace and they don’t know who to turn to when they feel bullied and harassed.” ACT work safety commissioner Greg Jones acknowledged that young workers were particularly vulnerable to being exploited on the job, but said that the majority of employers do “the right thing” by their employees.

Cth Public Sector Installs Gender Neutral Bathrooms
The Commonwealth Public Service will install unisex bathrooms at the Treasury building to foster greater inclusiveness of transgender and intersex employees. These bathrooms will not be “specifically reserved as gender-neutral” but will be “accessible for any individual.” Inclusive bathrooms have also been installed at the Department of Environment and Energy.

Further Complaints at Ipswich Hospital

Two new complaints have been lodged by staff in relation to bullying and harassment within the Adult Mental Health Unit at Ipswich Hospital. This follows a story published by the Queensland Times last week, which addressed allegations that bullying, intimidation and threats between staff were widespread within the mental health unit. Since September 2016, seven formal complaints have been lodged with West Moreton Hospital and Health Service in relation to bullying and harassment within the Adult Mental Health Unit.

A spokesperson for West Moreton Hospital and Health Service has stated that they “are working with staff to improve the workplace culture and the working environment in the Adult Mental Health Unit [through] improving the physical workplace for staff and consumers, encouraging staff engagement and promoting staff development.” Two executive directors have been brought in to supervise the process of creating cultural change within the unit. Further, Interim Chief Executive Dr Kerrie Freeman has invited staff to speak with her directly.

AFP Officer Fairly Dismissed for Stalking and Falsifying Records
Paul Hackett applied for an unfair dismissal remedy in respect of the termination of his employment with the Australian Federal Police (AFP) (in the case of Hackett v Australian Federal Police [2017] FWC 2518). Mr Hackett’s employment was terminated on the grounds of serious misconduct, which led to a breach of the Professional Standards and Code of Conduct of the AFP in respect of four charges. It was alleged that Mr Hackett:
• Stalked and intimated Mrs K (a female whom Mr Hackett had previously been in a relationship with);
• Deliberately falsified his employment record;
• Supplied these false records in a court statement; and
• Denied stalking and intimidating Mrs K in a Profession Standards interview, when in fact, he had done so.

Deputy President Lawrence held that these four allegations were substantiated and provided the AFP with a valid reason to terminate Mr Hackett’s employment. Deputy President Lawrence noted that Mr Hackett’s conduct was inconsistent with the AFP’s Professional Standards and Core Values and, more generally, “the confidence the public is entitled to have in a police officer.” Mr Hackett’s application for unfair dismissal relief was dismissed.

Dismissal Fair for Employee who Sent Highly Offensives Remarks About Clients to Work Colleague and Clients (accidentally)
Georgia Sologinkin applied for an unfair dismissal remedy in respect of the termination of her employment with Cosmetic Suppliers Pty Ltd (in the case of Sologinkin v Cosmetic Suppliers Pty Ltd [2017] FWC 1838). Ms Sologinkin was employed as a Key Accounts Manager with the responsibility of overseeing the provision of customer service to ‘key customers.’ On 9 November 2016, Ms Sologinkin sent an email to the respondent’s customer services team berating them as ‘totally incompetent.’ On the same day, Ms Sologinkin sent an email to a friend who had commenced work as a contractor for Cosmetic Suppliers, in which she made a number of highly offensive comments about some of the clients that her friend would be working with. This email included a reference to one of the clients’ ethnicity and national origin. This email was also accidentally sent to the clients about whom the comments had been made. Following an investigation into this incident, Ms Sologinkin’s employment was terminated.

Senior Deputy President Hamberger held that Cosmetic Suppliers had a valid reason to terminate the employment of Ms Sologinkin. SDP Hamberger stated that:
The email contained a number of derogatory and offensive comments about the respondent’s clients. Even if these had not been sent to the clients themselves, these comments would have been entirely inappropriate – especially from someone in the applicant’s position, whose job it was to manage relations with key customers. They were also in breach of the respondent’s Code of Conduct and its IT User Conduct Policy.
Senior Deputy President Hamberger concluded that the termination of Ms Sologinkin’s employment was not harsh, unjust or unreasonable.