What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 20 April 2020 – 26 April 2020

Horrific Allegations of Bullying for Employee Who Continued to Work Through a Union Strike

A foreman at DP World Australia’s Melbourne port is suing his former employer for failing to prevent bullying and abuse. Michael Crompton, who worked at DP World during a union strike, was assured by management he would be looked after if he continued working through the strike. Given the strike was close to Christmas and Crompton disagreed with its reasons, he and six other employees continued working. This decision resulted in Mr Crompton receiving endless taunts from fellow employees. The abuse began with anonymous phone calls which called him a ‘rat’ and ‘dog.’ These were followed by nasty Facebook comments and death threats inscribed onto toilet walls and docking machinery. These comments included ‘poison the rats.’ The toilet graffiti included a picture of six dead bodies hanging from a tree. With his safety compromised, Mr Crompton was placed on WorkCover and given paid leave. However, his return to work did not see the abuse lessen. Instead, Mr Crompton came back to see his overalls scrawled with the words ‘dead man’. These strike-related attacks and taunts continued for months and were never investigated. Mr Crompton said management refused to trace the harassing calls and toilet graffiti was left for several days before being cleaned. ‘We were told if we did work that day that they’d look after us. They didn’t,’ he said. Mr Crompton was then laid off by DP World Australia because he was unable to return to his normal duties. Crompton now seeks to sue DP World Australia for negligence. ‘I lost my career, lost everything,’ he said. ‘All I wanted to do was stay at work. I’m just hanging on to the house now.’ Crompton claims he developed post-traumatic stress disorder, suffers from flashbacks and has had suicidal thoughts as a result of the bullying. Mr Crompton’s lawyer Dean Charalambous said the work environment at DP World Australia’s terminal in the Port of Melbourne was toxic and described the bullying as horrific. ‘Rather than making him a target for verbal abuse and threats of physical violence, his decision not to strike should have been respected,’ Mr Charalambous said. Both DP World and the Maritime Union of Australia declined to comment, citing pending legal action.

Former CEO of Rugby Australia Suffered ‘Abhorrent’ Bullying

Rugby Australia (RA) chairman Paul McLean has defended the organisation’s former CEO Raelene Castle, claiming she suffered abhorrent abuse and bullying during her three years with RA. Castle resigned from her position as CEO of RA last Thursday evening following sustained criticism. Her position was promptly filled by McLean, a former Wallabies captain, who replaces her in the ‘very short term’ before the official search for a CEO begins. McLean described Castle as someone who was extremely committed to the organisation. He also said that the torrent of criticism, bullying and abuse she suffered resulted in her decision to quit. ‘Criticism is easy, being cynical is easy, but decision making is tough,’ McLean said. ‘She was able to do that and do that with some clarity,’ he added. Castle, who frequented news headlines over her handling of the Israel Folau settlement, faced intense criticism over her leadership. Former Wallabies coach turned radio host, Alan Jones, made his criticisms very public, saying on 2GB that Castle ‘knows nothing about the game.’ Jones compared her appointment to CEO of RA to ‘putting someone [as] first violinist in the Sydney Symphony Orchestra who can’t read music.’ However, McLean said it was not these public attacks which were most damaging. ‘It’s the silent forces, the dark forces that upset me most,’ he said. ‘It’s the people who didn’t ask, didn’t know the facts or just one of those faceless people out there that was the damaging thing from her perspective, and she shared some of that with me, which I found quite abhorrent.’ McLean lamented that ‘(if not for the) unwarranted criticism and, in fact, bullying, I think it might have been a different scenario.’

A Different Type of Bullying Could Surface in Working From Home Situation

Founder and director of Bullyology, Jessica Hickman said that bullying could increase in the current ‘working-from-home’ environment. Hickman warned that there’s a real danger with new working conditions as self-isolation makes bullying harder to detect. She also said that bullying may be amplified as effective communication deteriorates. Hickman identified that the main bullying problems when working-from-home are:
• Misinterpreted emails;
• Isolation and loneliness intruding on our rational thinking;
• Miscommunication;
• Lack of body language and human connection; 
• Heightened emotions and the deflecting of our fears and anxieties onto others;
• Frustration at the sheer scope of new work-from-home challenges;
• Lack of training and clear processes for the ‘new normal’;
• Assuming it’s business as usual when it comes to communication; and
• No firm work boundaries. Out of hours calls and emails add significant pressure.

Hickman said that bosses, managers and organisations must rethink their complaints systems to cater to this new at-home work structure. Notably, she said that companies must revise their reporting guidelines and ensuring that complaints are handled immediately.