What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 17 February 2020 – 23 February 2020

Ex-Sephora Employee Creates Website Highlighting Bullying Allegations at Company

An ex-Sephora employee has levelled bullying allegations against the beauty giant, after publishing detailed reports on incidents at its prominent Highpoint store in Melbourne. The allegations were published to the website ‘Working at Sephora’ by former sales consultant ‘Liam’ and his partner ‘Jack’, who used pseudonyms to retain anonymity. The allegations included breaches of privacy and mishandling of staff conflicts at the Melbourne store. Documents showed that Liam complained about being openly criticised by one of the store’s managers. In response to Liam’s complaint, Highpoint’s management asked Liam to change to a different store to avoid conflict. However, despite taking the incident to Sephora’s HR, the matter didn’t resolve. Instead, division led to private information about Liam being shared without his consent. In his resignation letter, Liam said he had no choice but to resign. In setting up the website, Jack explained that the goal was to provide counsel for others in similar situations, and to highlight issues with Sephora’s workplace culture. ‘We suspect [Sephora] might just not know – because if they did they would’ve cleaned up their act,’ said Jack. ‘Liam never received an apology for what happened, so that would be nice too.’ A Sephora spokesperson said the retailer was disappointed to hear of the allegations. ‘At Sephora we have a zero-tolerance policy towards acts of bullying, harassment or intimidation and are ardent about creating fun, safe and inclusive environments for our team and our clients, holding all of our interactions to the highest standards,’ the spokesperson said.

Sexual Harassment Judgement Delayed by Six Years

For reasons unknown a judge has taken six years to deliver his judgement which has now been over-turned by the Federal Court.
Brisbane woman, Lilo Hana Von Schoeler, who was groped from behind by a male colleague and subsequently taunted and bullied at work, has successfully appealed her case to the Federal Court. While working at the Boral timber mill in 2009, Von Schoeler was labelled a ‘dobbing dog’ by colleagues after reporting the groping incident to management. Documents lodged with the Court also revealed that her boss allegedly said ‘stop crying, you stupid little girl’ in response to her complaint. And while, at an earlier hearing, the Federal Circuit Court found that Ms Von Schoeler was sexually harassed by her former colleague, the claim against Boral was dismissed. However, last week, she successfully appealed to the Federal Court in Brisbane, thereby overturning the earlier decision which dismissed her claim against Boral. In her appeal, Von Schoeler alleged that Boral was liable not only for the conduct of the employee who had assaulted her but also those who discriminated against her after she complained. The full bench of the Federal Court accepted this argument.

Retail Association Offers Suggestions on How to Combat Bullying

According to National Retail Association chief executive Dominique Lamb, more transparency is needed to combat bullying. She identified that the ‘difficulty in staff bullying situations is that unless people are willing to make formal complaints to upper management it can be hard for a business to even identify.’ In an interview following allegations of bullying and harassment at beauty retailers Mecca, Lamb observed that workplace bullying can fester and impact the culture at particular stores within a franchise. However, Lamb rejected the idea that the retail industry has a bullying problem, saying most retail businesses are compassionate and empathetic. ‘Most businesses in our membership group certainly train in this space, not only employees but also management,’ Lamb said.

‘Certain industries have a higher likelihood of having a bullying culture… but where a business isn’t actively following guidelines set by the Fair Work Act or the safety legislation as a whole, you can see patterns appear,’ she continued. ‘The way you stop it is by having transparency, easy ways to report, having lots of time for training, and access to employee assistance programs in some form,’ she concluded.