What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 17 February 2019 – 24 February 2019

Former Executive of Japanese Company Alleges Discrimination Due to Being Caucasian
A former Melbourne executive, Melissa Bell, has commenced proceedings against Japanese retail company, Uniqlo. Bell alleged that she was bullied and discriminated against during her time at Uniqlo because of her ‘Caucasian heritage’. She claimed that co-workers of ‘Asian descent’ were generally given more favourable treatment and that because of this, she was overlooked for promotions and pay rise opportunities. She has since filed a statement of claim to the Federal Court in Melbourne. In her statement, Bell alleged that, in addition to being denied career advancement opportunities, she was also bullied by Uniqlo’s Chief Operating Officer, Kenji Tsuji, on four separate occasions. Uniqlo has since denied most of Ms Bell’s accusations. The company maintained that she was ‘not promoted due to her performance’.

Call for Royal Commission into Disability Abuse
Momentum has requested a Royal Commission into abuse within the disability services sector. While Labor and the Greens’ have rallied support, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has indicated that the inquiry is not an urgent priority for the Government. The main opposition to the Royal Commission is that Australia has historically lacked data into rates of disability abuse. Accordingly, it is uncertain whether an ‘endemic’ actually exists. Associate Professor at Deakin University, Patsie Frawley, said that the lack of data is partly because ‘violence against women with disabilities is often unreported and when it is reported it is dismissed, ignored or covered up.’ The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) reported that, apart from census data, rates of disability abuse are not being tracked at a state or national level. Julia – an anonymous victim of disability abuse within the workplace – told the SMH that ‘women with intellectual disabilities may be perceived as vulnerable and less likely to defend themselves from sexual harassment and assault’. The Human Rights Commission’s ‘National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces’ has taken notice of the issue by consulting people with a disability in Sydney last week. However, Associate Professor Frawley said that more needs to be done.

Young Labor President Resigned Due to Substantiated Bullying
ACT Young Labor President, Nick Douros, has resigned from his Federal Staffer position after investigations revealed that he, and two senior Labor members, bullied a fellow party member. The internal disputes tribunal found that the members contravened the party’s code of conduct when they called their fellow member a ‘rat’ and ‘pledged’ to make her life hell. Online chat logs detailed how Mr Douros conspired to ‘bully the f*** out of [the female staff member] until she [resigned]’. Senator David Smith’s office has confirmed that Mr Dourous resigned as staff member. Labor’s ACT division is yet to comment on the matter.

Not in My Workplace Initiative
Business sectors have taken a stand against workplace harassment, with a new initiative called ‘Not in my Workplace’ (NIMW). Last week, the inaugural NIMW summit took place in the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. The summit brought together senior government members and executives to address the issue of workplace harassment and industry-wide abuse. Melbourne Convention Bureau CEO Karen Bolinger said the summit provided ‘a valuable opportunity to answer the question “what can I do?” and, the discuss the actions we can take to stamp out sexual harassment in the workplace’.