What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 15 – 21 October 2018

Legal Action Taken Against Coco’s Restaurant Due to Pregnancy Discrimination
The Fair Work Ombudsman is taking legal action against Coco’s Restaurant for discriminating against its staff. It is alleged the Perth restaurant discriminated against a casual waitress on the basis of her pregnancy. The unnamed waitress had shifts cancelled in 2017, after the restaurant discovered she was pregnant. On one occasion, her shift was cancelled the same day she was to work. On another, her supervisor was directed to send her home, as she looked “disgusting” in the director’s opinion. The Fair Work Ombudsman, Sandra Parker, described the restaurant’s behaviour as “particularly serious”. Ms Parker is seeking penalties of $63,000 and $12,600 from the restaurant and director respectively. She reiterated that employers could not discriminate on the basis of an employee’s pregnancy, whether they are part-time, full-time or casual workers.

Stop Bullying Order Without Merit-Complainant Ordered to Pay Legal Costs of Other Side
An unsuccessful application to stop bullying has seen a dismissed employee paying costs. While a union delegate and health and safety representative at Sydney Trains, Joseph Salama claims to have been harassed and bullied by four management personnel. He alleges to have been threatened with disciplinary actions and was ultimately dismissed for making what his employer found to be false allegations of bullying. Sydney Trains sought to have his application dismissed as being vexatious and lacking reasonable cause. That application was subsequently dismissed. In deciding whether Mr Salama was to pay their costs, the Fair Work Commission had regard to a number of factors. They considered that Sydney Trains had a comprehensive, exhaustive process to determine whether an employee engaged in misconduct, which would have been used before dismissing Mr Salama. They also considered that Sydney Trains notified Mr Salama that he might have to pay their costs if he did not discontinue the Stop Bullying application, to which he did not respond. Ultimately, the Fair Work Commission held that it should have been reasonably apparent to Mr Salama that he did not have any reasonable prospects of success with his application. He has been ordered to pay the respondents’ costs on a “party-to-party” basis.

Victoria Bar’s Report Shows Significant Bullying by Judges and Magistrates to Barristers
The Victorian Bar’s largest report into the health of the State’s barristers has revealed concerning data on judicial bullying. The Quality of Working Life Survey saw over half of the 856 respondent barristers claim to have been bullied in the courtroom by a judge or magistrate. Two thirds of women and 58% of men alleged to have been the victims of bullying and humiliation. They described examples of “discourteous and disrespectful behaviour”, as well as rudeness, abuse and sarcasm. Bullying, which was found to be most prevalent in the lower Magistrates and County Courts, ranked as barristers’ largest concern. In addition, 36% of women and 16% of men reported being discriminated against, and 16% of women as opposed to 2% of men said they had been sexually harassed. The survey comes in light of a series of issues in the Victorian judicial system earlier in the year, including Judge Mark Dean’s conduct being investigated for bullying and State Coroner Sara Hinchey standing down over complaints of her own conduct.

ACT Public School Bullying of Teachers Tripled in the last 5 Years
In-school bullying and harassment is prompting increasing numbers of school staff to seek leave. According to government data, three times as many teachers and principals, at 67, took leave in the past year compared to five years ago. WorkSafe ACT is taking legal action against the ACT’s education directorate after a two-year investigation found it had breached its duty of care to protect public school staff. The ACT Secretary for the Australian Education Union, Glenn Fowler, noted that “definite stressors” and intense workloads were aggravating bullying and harassment. In response to the data, a spokeswoman for the ACT education directorate said that new reforms worth $7m would help to increase reporting mechanisms.

CFMEU Fined $313,000 For Bullying Workers
The Federal Court has fined the CFMEU for bullying workers. It found that six union officials unlawfully threatened concreting companies into signing Enterprise Bargaining Agreements, and broke right of entry laws in 2014 and 2015. In fining the union $313,000 and ordering it to publish advertisements of their breaches, Justice Flick said the officials’ behaviour “evidences a continuing commitment… to pursue its industrial objectives by unlawful means”. Denita Wawn, the CEO of Master Builders Australia, echoed these sentiments and noted that “bullying by the CFMEU is an everyday reality for small business people and workers on building sites around the country.”