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

Bullying to the Extreme: Setting Work Colleague on Fire
Luke Chenoweth, a construction site supervisor at Tad-Mar Electrical, has pleaded guilty under the Work Health and Safety Act after dousing an apprentice in flammable liquid and lighting his clothes on fire. The South Australian Employment Tribunal (SAET) heard that Chenoweth squirted flammable liquid onto the boot and the crotch area of the 19-year-old apprentice before igniting his shirt on fire. Prosecutor Laura Willows told the Tribunal that this was just one incident in a series of ongoing bullying attacks against the apprentice. Previously, colleagues. At Tad-Mar Electrical had tied the apprentice to a ladder, covered his face in silicon and locked him in a shipping container. Ms Willows added that the young apprentice had also been subjected to acute verbal abuse during his time with the electrical company. Mr Chenoweth is set to be sentenced and faces a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and a $300,000 fine.

Chenoweth’s fellow perpetrator, Jeffrey Rowe, was fined $12,000 in relation to his involvement.

Request for Mandatory Sexual Harassment and Bullying Training for All Australian Lawyers
In a position paper tendered to the Law Council of Australia this week, Australian Women Lawyers (AWL) has called for mandatory sexual harassment and bullying training within the profession. AWL president, Adrienne Morton, ‘strongly’ supports mandated training within the profession. She said that the AWL wants sexual harassment and bullying training to be ‘a part of the Practical Legal Training courses’ and a requirement for continuing professional development (CPD) points. AWL has also called for individual lawyers to undertake annual written acknowledgements that they understand their obligations. ‘We suggest practitioners tick a box on their practising certificate renewal stating: “I am aware of my obligations under the sexual harassment, discrimination and anti-bullying policies”’. The AWL position paper followed the International Bar Association’s (IBA) ‘Us Too?’ report, which found levels of sexual harassment and bullying in Australia’s legal profession ‘were among the highest across the globe’. AWL condemned the IBA findings as ‘appalling’.

Possible Risks Related to Flexible Work Arrangements
Professor Lucy Taksa, Co-Director of the Centre for Workforce Futures at Macquarie Business School, said that flexible working arrangements – such as working from home – can lead to fraught relationships between colleagues, and even incidents of bullying. ‘There’s a collective implication every time an individual’s needs are accommodated, and that can be meted out in undesirable ways – for example, other employees can be resentful and take that out on the individual when the situation isn’t well communicated or managed’, Ms Taksa said. ‘For some, flexibility is the key to success and survival in a competitive and technological environment,’ however, Ms Taksa caveated that flexible arrangements must be managed appropriately against group and organisational needs.