According to the Diversity Council of AustraliaDiversity Council of AustraliaDiversity Council of Australia, age-based discrimination in the workplace can affect employees as young as 45 years old. As for those over 50, nearly 30 per cent of respondents to a 2018 Australian Human Rights Commission survey reported reluctance or unwillingness to hire or promote anyone over that age. This is an increase of three per cent from a similar 2016 survey. Robert Tickner, in launching the EveryAge Counts campaign, has reminded employers that age-based discrimination at work is ‘absolutely illegalage-based discrimination at work is ‘absolutely illegalage-based discrimination at work is ‘absolutely illegal’.
A recent report by South Australia’s Independent Commissionerrecent report by South Australia’s Independent Commissionerrecent report by South Australia’s Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (ICAC) has found ‘shocking’ allegation of bullying and misconduct among public servants‘shocking’ allegation of bullying and misconduct among public servants‘shocking’ allegation of bullying and misconduct among public servants. Of the 12,000 respondents, nearly half reported having witnessed bullying and harassment in the past five years of employment. The SA Health, the Department for Child Protection and the Department of Correctional Services racked up the worst allegations. The Commissioner found that the majority of employees who lost their jobs after making a complaint were from SA Health and the number of responses received from that department was more than triple any other. The ICAC Public Integrity Survey described South Australia’s public service as ‘toxic’ and found that often staff were ‘too scared to report’ misconduct and corruption for fear of reprisal. ‘Reported once … got absolutely flogged for it … will never do it again,’ one public servant told the Commissioner. In addition to claims of bullying and harassment, the report also found instances of age-based discrimination. In one department, an executive allegedly asked for a list of workers aged over 50 to target during a restructure. Anti-corruption commissioner, Bruce Lander QC, described the allegations as ‘sobering’ and has since requested several agencies to look into their claims.
A former Centrelink officer, who was diagnosed as legally blind, has alleged he was harassed and later fired for working too slowly. This week, Brendon Donohue lodged a disability discrimination complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) on the basis that he was not provided accessible systems, equipment and other supportwas not provided accessible systems, equipment and other supportwas not provided accessible systems, equipment and other support. Mr Donohue told Guardian Australia he was regularly humiliated on a ‘whiteboard of shame’ for being slower than his colleagues. ‘It always came across that I was not necessarily doing good work,’ Mr Donohue said. ‘One day they called me and say unfortunately you haven’t met the targets and we’re terminating your employment’, he explained. ‘We had great people but none of them knew about accessibility. None of the staff were knowledgeable about totally blind people and screen readers and braille displays’, he added. Mr Donohue claims that his job provider, Adecco Australia, provided inaccessible and discriminatory processes and systems. While his employer did provide an ‘accessibility team’, Mr Donohue claimed its members were often unavailable to assist. He also claimed that the effect of the whiteboards system was to publicly diminish certain employees work performances.
Young solicitors need to watch out for grooming and gaslighting behaviours in the workplace, Kate Eastman SC has warned. Usually associated with child sex abuse, Ms Eastman said that ‘grooming’ involves continuous behaviours that would not constitute sexual harassment at first, but then continue until they meet the legal requirement of conduct that is unwelcome and humiliating, as provided for by the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth). According to Ms Eastman, ‘grooming starts in a very benign way’. ‘Maybe someone is picked out as a favourite, gets put on good matters, has extra coffees with the partner, gets extra work. But then it shifts from an area where the boundary [between personal and professional] is very clear to one where it becomes fuzzy’. Ms Eastman’s concern about grooming reflects the legal profession’s entrenched problems with harassment, with the International Bar Association recently findingInternational Bar Association recently findingInternational Bar Association recently finding that one in three female lawyers in Australia has experienced sexual harassmentone in three female lawyers in Australia has experienced sexual harassmentone in three female lawyers in Australia has experienced sexual harassment at work. Earlier this year, Law Council of Australia president Arthur Moses SC said that addressing sexual harassment was ‘an issue of grave concern and one of the greatest challenges facing the legal profession’.