What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 15 June 2020 – 21 June 2020

Bullying Allegations by Former CEO of Cockburn Dismissed by Fair Work

The Fair Work Commission (FWC) recently dismissed a bullying claim by former Cockburn chief executive officer (CEO), Stephen Cain. Mr Cain applied to the FWC for an anti-bullying order against the Cockburn City Mayor, councillors Lee-Anne Smith and Kevin Allen and interim CEO Stuart Downing. In the Commission’s judgment, deputy president Abbey Beaumont found that Councillor Smith had ‘engaged in repeated unreasonable behaviour toward Mr Cain.’ This included abusive language and false allegations over social media. Ultimately, however, the deputy president believed Councillor Smith’s behaviour was adequately addressed by the Council’s investigation into Mr Cain’s bullying claims in March 2020. Since which, the Council voted to initiate workplace bullying training and compile a record of allegations. Similarly, deputy president Beaumont was not satisfied that Mr Cain had been bullied by Mayor Howlett, Councillor Allen or Mr Downing. Following the Commission’s decision, the City of Cockburn informed Mr Cain he would not return as CEO. The City claimed that Cain’s departure had nothing to do with the FWC’s decision or growing allegations against the CEO. The allegations being involvement in a confidential email scandal and attending a work event while on special paid leave, contrary to instructions.

Employee Suing for Damages Under Disability Discrimination Act Due to Work Related PTSD

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has intervened in a sexual harassment case involving Airservices Australia. The Federal Court granted the AHRC leave to file submissions in the case, which is set to begin next Monday. The dispute concerns an action by a former air traffic control trainee against her boss at Airservices Australia. Although Airservices Australia has not contested the former trainee was stalked and sexually harassed by her boss – who requested kisses and private dances – the Federal agency denies that the woman should be compensated for breaches of the Disability Discrimination Act. Indeed, it is expected the trainee will be compensated for the uncontested harassment; however, she is also seeking further compensation for her post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Lawyers for the former trainee have argued that Airservices Australia breached the Disability Discrimination Act by failing to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to the woman’s return-to-work after she gave birth, in light of the PTSD and depression she suffered as a result of being sexually harassed at work. The Federal Court case will be closely observed by the Commonwealth public service as the outcome may affect the ability of thousands of public servants to sue government agencies for damages under the Disability Discrimination Act.

New Sporting Watchdog Opens its Doors in July

New integrity watchdog, Sports Integrity Australia (SIA), is set to open its doors on 1 July 2020. SIA, which will take on the roles of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA), the National Integrity of Sport Unit (NISU) and the integrity functions of Sport Australia, will provide national support to sports organisations across Australia. Among other things, the SIA will provide support to members of sporting organisations in instances of bullying, intimidation, discrimination or harassment. SIA CEO David Sharpe said, ‘it’s important that sporting organisations continue to have responsibility for maintaining integrity across their codes.’ ‘Sport Integrity Australia’s main priority from commencement on 1 July will be to help sports as they fight to maintain their basic operations, and during the coming months as they return to competition,’ Mr Sharpe added. ‘Where sports already have advanced integrity units, Sport Integrity Australia will support and value-add to those existing integrity functions. Where sports may currently lack resources, Sport Integrity Australia will help those organisations develop these functions and capabilities,’ he concluded.

Town of Cambridge Given a Show Cause Notice Regarding Possible Inappropriate Behaviours

The Town of Cambridge is facing a possible six-month suspension following a ‘number of concerns’ about its governance and staff. On Tuesday, WA Local Government Minister David Templeman issued the town with a show cause notice, after receiving ‘escalating complaints’ about its management. The complainants include ‘issues around workplace safety, also relationships and blurring of roles and responsibilities between elected members and authorised employees.’ According to the Department of Local Government, the working environment between the council, chief executive and employees also showed signs of intimidation and undue pressure. Under the Local Government Act, the Town of Cambridge has three weeks to respond to the notice and rebut the Department’s allegations. In his press conference, Mr Templeman said that the notice is ‘something I don’t do lightly but the show cause … now allows the Town of Cambridge 21-days to respond to the concerns that have been raised through my suspicions.’ Mr Templeman said he will decide what action to take after he has received a response from the town. Following Mr Templeman’s announcement on Tuesday, Town of Cambridge Mayor Keri Shannon expressed concern over the show cause. ‘We are incredibly disappointed, because we believe that the Town of Cambridge has been an exemplar town council, and we have led the way in terms of local government reform,’ she said. ‘I am surprised at a number of the allegations in the show cause notice and we will be vigorously defending the show cause notice to the minister,’ she added.