What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 20 – 26 August 2018

Workplace Bullying Resulted in Worker’s Compensation Payout
The NSW Workers Compensation Commission has found in favour of an overworked and victimised marketing manager. Jodie Hammond, who formerly worked at Citigroup, argued that her manager bullied and harassed her. She alleged having to work within “unacceptable timeframes” and participate in unethical behaviour by manipulating the budget. While Ms Hammond did take on a new position with higher pay, she was simultaneously made to do the work of her old job. Returning from time off after a medical incident, she claims that her work colleagues isolated her and failed to invite her to events. Senior arbitrator Capel was satisfied that on the balance of probabilities, Ms Hammond had been subjected to unreasonable demands and had suffered bullying, harassment, and psychological injury in the course of her work. She has been compensated for this psychological injury, which led to a loss of work capacity.

LGBTI Employee Survey Results
The 2018 Australian Workplace Equality Index Employee Survey has revealed the extent to which LGBTI workers are victimised in their employment. The survey, conducted by Pride in Diversity, found that 10% of such workers experienced casual homophobia in their regional workplaces, with nearly 12% having been bullied. Moreover, 13% said they experienced very high or high degrees of anxiety while being recruited. While the overwhelming majority of 91% of LGBTI workers surveyed said much more still needed to be done for better inclusiveness, 10% of non-LGBTI workers believed that in light of the country’s marriage equality status, nothing more was necessary.

Dismissal Related to Raising Bullying Allegations or Serious Misconduct by Employee?
A planning director who formerly worked at TBWA in Sydney claims to have been dismissed for raising allegations of bullying and harassment by her managing director. Annabel Rogers had originally sought to resign in 2016 because her managing director Nitsa Lotus bullied and harassed her. However, she withdrew her resignation following mediation and an apology from Ms Lotus. In July 2016 Ms Rogers found a handover document intended for then incoming chief strategy officer, Matt Springate, in which Ms Lotus had described her as “difficult to get engaged in meetings”. CEO Paul Bradbury allegedly warned Ms Rogers against raising this issue because it would be “bad for [her] reputation”. He also allegedly asked Ms Rogers “what number” would stop her taking the matter to court. Despite an internal investigation being launched and an independent investigator being appointed to look into the complaints, Ms Rogers was dismissed the same day. TBWA claims not to have fired her for making the complaints, but rather for the “very serious” misconduct in which she engaged by sneaking into someone else’s office and taking copies of confidential information.

200 Employees of Flight Centre Complain of Bullying and Harassing Behaviour
The ABC has received complaints from 200 former and current Flight Centre staff regarding the organisation’s toxic workplace culture. The complainants described instances of bullying, and peer-pressure to drink alcohol and take drugs, which formed part of the organisation’s “cult-like” atmosphere. A former employee claims that after notifying her work of her pregnancy, she was “treated badly up until the week before [her] baby was due”. Others described being “bullied into things they weren’t comfortable with”, as well as female employees being humiliated and harassed during company events. A male member of staff spoke of instances of sexual harassment, which were not seriously looked into. Flight Centre has responded saying they were “surprised and concerned that some past and present employees have chosen to contact [the ABC]… bullying is not tolerated in any shape or form”.

Bullying Allegations About CEO of Back in Motion Health Group
The former chief financial officer of Back in Motion Health Group has spoken of a problematic business model in a submission to the Senate Inquiry into the Operation and Effectiveness of the Franchising Code of Conduct. Peter Bain said that mental health issues, financial distress and in some instances contemplated suicide and PTSD were the result of a weak model and founder Jason Smith’s “bullying tactics”, which put pressure on franchisees. Mr Bain said that franchisees were required to improve sales by 5% year on year lest they risk losing their practice. Moreover, some franchisees felt trapped with exit fees of $600,000, and up to $1m according to one franchisee. A spokesperson for Back in Motion said that their “top priority is to support [their] franchisees and help them achieve their business goals”.

Corruption and Bullying Result in Qld Ipswich Council Soon to be Dismissed

Queensland’s Ipswich Council is set to be dismissed following the passage of a new bill in their state Parliament. This comes in light of the Crime and Corruption Commission charging 15 people with 86 criminal offences. In addition to the identified fraud and extortion, there have also been instances of a toxic bullying culture. Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said he had received a letter from an anonymous woman, in which she described “bullying, favouritism, sexism… inappropriate language and poor treatment of some staff”.

Male and Female Rugby Teams Treated Differently
Rugby Australia has denied claims they discriminated against two women’s rugby teams. The Wallaroos and Black Ferns were told they could not warm up in ANZ Stadium prior to a double header with the Wallabies and All Blacks. Despite the latter two men’s teams being permitted to warm up as normal before their Bledisloe Cup game, Rugby Australia maintains that the women were not “snub[bed]”. An official for Rugby Australia insists that there is no problem given that neither team “complained after being advised they needed to warm up elsewhere”.

Positive Discrimination Implemented at Uni of Adelaide Engineering Faculty
The University of Adelaide is advertising uniquely for women to fill academic positions in their engineering faculty. It is the first time the university has acted under an Equal Opportunity Act exemption that allows for discrimination to benefit “a particular disadvantaged group”. Male staff constitutes 85% of the Faculty of Engineering, Computing and Mathematical Sciences’ academic staff positions. Rikki Lambert, South Australian Senate candidate for the Australian Conservatives, did not agree with the model. He said that “governments and universities don’t need to be running ahead of the community” when there was already burgeoning interest in STEM among female school students. While the Equal Opportunity Act permits complaints against the exemption, Mr Lambert would not file one “under a body that [they] fundamentally disagree with why it actually exists (sic)”.