What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 16 January 2023 – 22 January 2023

More Sexual Harassment Laws

Two pieces of significant legislation were quietly assented to in the pre-Christmas rush, which are worth having a look at.

Both demonstrate there is a definite shift in the law related to unlawful behaviours from a complaint-based system to one where an organisation must proactively prevent its workers from engaging in discriminatory and harassing behaviour.

As well as the new Respect at Work Act coming into effect as of 12 December 2022, there are also new prohibitions in the Fair Work Act that came into effect on 6 December 2022 related to the prohibition of sexual harassment. The protection extends to it being unlawful for a client and customer sexually harassing a worker.

Like the stop bullying orders already in the FWA there are also stop sexual harassment orders. But the amendments now allow for other remedies related to sexual harassment to be imposed, such as monetary compensation. A new vicarious liability provision means that a worker can also seek a remedy from their organisation in addition to the alleged offender where the organisation did not take all reasonable steps to prevent the sexual harassment.

South Australian Judges Faces Investigation Following Sexual Harassment Allegations

The ABC published an article this week detailing a recent investigation into the alleged misconduct of a South Australian Judge. While the name of the Judge cannot be stated due to legal reasons, the misconduct involves allegations of sexual harassment. Commissioner Michael Boylan KC stated that he received a complaint “about the conduct of a serving judge” and that the investigation was “in its early stages.” The Commissioner further acknowledged that it was “inappropriate” for him to detail anything else at this stage. The investigation follows previous allegations of sexual harassment in South Australia, which saw former magistrate Simon Milazzo removed from office.

Bullying Claims in Australian Medical Workforce

Australia’s medical regulation body (AHPRA) is currently dealing with reports of bullying and harassment within the medical workforce. AHPRA recently conducted interviews with staff who described the “toxic” nature of the workforce, stating that “workloads are unmanageable, women are mistreated… badmouthing colleagues occurs in the open.” While the Sydney Morning Herald states that AHPRA declined to comment, a statement was released detailing how due to recent events (most notably COVID-19), strain had been placed on resources and therefore performance.

Queensland Police Apologise to LGBTIQ+ Communities

The Queensland police have issued a statement to apologise for the historical mistreatment of LGBTIQ+ communities. In this statement, the Commissioner of the Queensland Police Service acknowledge “past harm” and apologise for “enforcing laws that criminalised homosexual activity between consenting adults.” The Commissioner further apologised for those who “experienced discrimination and prejudice.”

Anti-Harassment Group that Sparked #MeToo Movement Finalises Operations

An article published by the ABC describes that the anti-harassment group “Time’s Up” (associated with the #MeToo movement) has closed its doors and ceased operations. The decision, which comes into effect at the end of January, follows the turbulent history of the internal workings of the group. Despite the massive reform in November of 2021, Time’s Up now operates as a skeleton crew with three remaining board members. A report following the announcement in 2021 described several deficiencies, notably “confusion over purpose and mission” and “ineffective communication internally and externally.” The ABC further describes how quickly the organisation grew “like a jet plane to a rocket ship overnight.”