What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 15 April 2019 – 21 April 2019

NSW Lawyers Association Calls on Employers to Take the Lead in Stamping out Sexual Harassment
Barrister and President of the NSW Women Lawyers Association, Larissa Andelman, has called upon employers to take the charge in stamping out sexual harassment in the workplace. In arguing that the onus for change needs to shift, Andelman said that there are many steps employers can take to shift the dial on sexual harassment. This included the introduction of “policy which requires those in leadership positions who observe an act of unacceptable, offensive or unlawful behaviour to report it”. Another suggestion included “leader-based bystander models”, which aim to teach those in senior roles how to act as “active bystanders”. Andelman argued that bystander models are useful tools because they engage with men as opposed to treating them as potential perpetrators.

Her comments are in line with the content I deliver in my half day workshop to all employees. I talk about what a ‘good bystander’ looks like in a workplace. A good bystander can do one of 3 things when they see something inappropriate happen. The bystander can call out the behaviour either at the time or shortly after, they could also report the behaviour to someone in a position of authority and they could also acknowledge the inappropriateness of the behaviour to the person who experienced it and to support them if they choose to resolve it. To find out more about our half day workshops and how they can encourage your staff to create a better workplace contact EEO Specialists.

Code of Conduct Hearing for Folau Over Homosexual Comment
A code-of-conduct hearing is set to be convened later this month over Israel Folau’s homosexual social media comments. Earlier this month, Folau was rebuked by Rugby Australia over a post to his personal Instagram account which read “hell awaits … homosexuals”. Rugby Australia (RA) alleged that Folau’s posts amounted to a “high level” breach of his contract. RA CEO, Raelene Castle, then issued a breach notice to Folau, giving him 48 hours to respond. Folau challenged the notice by requesting a code of conduct hearing. It has since emerged that Rugby Australia has engaged former Solicitor-General, Justin Gleeson SC, to argue the case. While the date of the code-of-conduct hearing has not been set down, Folau has also engaged legal counsel as well. Last week, NSW Waratahs team mate, Bernard Foley, came out to condemn Folau for his comments. In a press statement, Foley said that he “doesn’t agree with what [Folau]’s done” and that Folau “has hurt the team”.

Intellectual Freedom of Expression not Valid Grounds for Dismissal
A Qld marine physicist, Dr Peter Ridd, has won an unfair dismissal case (Ridd v James Cook University [2019] FCCA 997 (16 April 2019)) against former employer, James Cook University. The unfair dismissal claim, heard before the Federal Court of Australia, came after Mr Ridd was fired for making what was considered disparaging remarks about his colleagues in relation to their scientific research about the Great Barrier Reef. James Cook University maintained that Ridd’s comments were denigrating and amounted to serious misconduct and warranted his termination. The Federal Court disagreed and Judge Vasta said that the university had “not understood the whole concept of intellectual freedom”.”…In the search for truth, it is an unfortunate consequence that some people may feel denigrated, offended, hurt or upset…It may not always be possible to act collegiately when diametrically opposed views clash in the search for truth.”
Judge Vasta held that all grounds for dismissal were unlawful. The University is considering appealing the decision.

Senator Steele-John Calls for Changes for Employees with a Disability
West Australian Federal Senator, Jordan Steele-John, has proposed policies to combat discrimination against employees with a disability. Among other things, Steele-John has called for a fully funded National Disability Insurance Scheme. The Senator has also been lobbying for a 15 per cent quota for employees with a disability within the public sector. These policies are coming off the back of Steele-John’s successful campaign for a Royal Commission into Violence, Neglect and Abuse of Disabled People – which will, among other things, investigate workplace related abuses. The issues hit close to home for Steele-John, who proudly raised the banner as Australia’s first Senator to suffer from cerebral palsy. His concerns are backed up by to 2016-17 data from the Australian Human Rights Commission, which showed that 37 per cent of all discrimination complaints were on the grounds of disability. What’s more alarming for Steele-John is that only 48 per cent of working-age people with a disability have a job.

Former Uni Lecturer Contesting Dismissal Related to Political Opinion
Former Sydney University Lecturer, Tim Anderson, has commenced unlawful dismissal proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia. This comes after Sydney University sacked Mr Anderson for an alleged breach of the University’s code of conduct. The termination came after Mr Anderson used “an offensive and disrespectful” slide which featured a Nazi swastika superimposed over the Israeli flag. Prior to this, Anderson had been given repeated warnings by the University over Facebook and Twitter posts where he would leverage support of Bashar al-Assad and Kim Jong-un. It is speculated that Mr Anderson will contest the dismissal based on ‘political opinion’ provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth).

Legal Action Commenced Against Construction Union for Alleged Racial Abuse
The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) has commenced legal proceedings against the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) after an alleged incident of racial abuse. ABCC Chief, Stephen McBurney, said the incident, which involved racial vilification, unfolded at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in Northbridge. McBurney said that during the incident, the CFMMEU official referred to a non-caucasion supervisor as a “third world joker”. “The abuse then continued for some time,” McBurney said. The ABCC has considered “these to be very grave and serious allegations” and “think[s] it’s important for the court to adjudicate on this”. Accordingly, proceedings have commenced in the Federal Court. CFMMEU State Secretary, Mick Buchan, said the union is determined to defend the allegations.