What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 2 – 8 July 2018

When is it okay to not hire someone related to their criminal record?
The Attorney-General, Christian Porter, is set to meet with the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) over a recent workplace discrimination decision. The insurance company, Suncorp, chose not to employ a man – known as BE – on the grounds that he had been convicted of accessing and possessing child pornography. While that sentence was suspended, he was then convicted of a third offence relating to his reporting obligations. BE had applied to Suncorp for the position of a part-time claims assistant but Suncorp determined he was not of “sufficient character” based on these prior offences. The AHRC ordered Suncorp to compensate BE in the amount of $2500 for the “hurt, humiliation and distress” they had occasioned. Although the AHRC President Rosalind Croucher accepted that BE had concealed his offences in the first instance, it held that his criminal record could not in itself be a basis on which to impute his bad character and reject his job application. Suncorp, in turn, maintained that his criminal record was of a “serious nature and would impact on his ability to perform the requirements of the role”. Mr Porter will investigate the law as it currently stands in an attempt to prevent future businesses being effectively forced to hire people convicted of serious offences. He said, “I will be… considering all the relevant law surrounding this decision to see if there are statutory changes that may need to be considered to prevent this type of bizarre outcome”.

Sexually Inappropriate Jokes by Barry Hall on Live Radio
Barry Hall has issued a public apology after making sexually inappropriate comments on live radio. On 29 June, Mr Hall made a rape joke, insinuating the a doctor behaved inappropriately to induce the labour of Erinn Montagna, the wife of former St Kilda player, Leigh Montagna. As a result, Triple M dismissed Mr Hall immediately. However, he has since apologised for the comments, acknowledging that they were inappropriate. He said, “I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise for any offence taken from my commentary on Friday night’s Triple M footy coverage… I am a proud father and dedicated partner and have nothing but respect for women”.

Dismissal Fair but Best Practice is to Do it in Person
The Fair Work Commission has vindicated a beauty therapy business by rejecting an application of unfair dismissal. Emerse Skin & Laser employed four therapists, three of whom complained that their colleague, Anita Cachia, bullied them. Co-owner, Isabel McLennan, investigated their claims and met with Ms Cachia, as per the Fair Work’s suggested guidelines. She subsequently dismissed Ms Cachia via email, justifying her actions by saying that given the “emotional situation”, doing so face-to-face “would have made it worse”. It was on these grounds that Ms Cachia argued she had been unfairly dismissed. However, Deputy President of the FWC Peter Sams disagreed, finding that the dismissal was fair. Nonetheless, he did admonish Ms McLennan for her method of dismissal, arguing that it was not an “appropriate means of conveying a decision which has such serious ramifications for an employee”. He qualified that unless there was a threat of physical violence or some extreme geographical boundary, “dismissal should be conveyed face-to-face”, “otherwise [it would be] unnecessarily callous”.