What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 20 March 2023 – 26 March 2023

Sexual Harassment Widespread in Retail Industry

The University of Sydney in partnership with the Australian National University released a new report on 23 March 2023 detailing the experiences of men and women in the Australian retail industry. The retail industry is reportedly Australia’s second largest industry, constituted of approximately 10% of the Australian workforce. The report found that 1 in 5 retail workers had been sexually harassed while at work within the past 5 years. Some interviewees in the report described that there was “a lack of adequate training in how to address and prevent gendered abuse and harassment in retail workplaces.” According to the article, interviewees stated that “customer-perpetrated sexual harassment was very common.” Employees reported that that was a “limited and inadequate” response from employers, who cited that customers were the main priority, rather than the safety of the retail workers. A Union Leader stated that when an employee is being harassed, the “abusers make complaints and they get given gift cards”, after which workers are told to “suck it up.”

Director, Staffer and Two Companies Charged with Harassment of Hospitality Workers

Two male workers, who have not been named, have been charged with sexual harassment of employees as young as 14 within hospitality outlets of two Melbourne hospitals. The allegations follow from harassment complaints of seven staff members, with WorkSafe Victoria claiming that the boss and staffer contravened the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004. Two companies have additionally been charged, with the first relating to six employees, and the second pertaining to four. According to the article, “employees are required to take reasonable steps to protect workers from physical and mental injury.” The allegations occur in light of the recent new legislation prohibiting sexual harassment in the workforce, effective from 6 March 2023. The case is set to be heard before the Melbourne Magistrates Court on 29 March.

Report Finds Over Half of Migrant Workers Experience Discrimination

A new report released by the Migrant Workers Centre has found that over half (54%) of migrant workers in Australia have experienced discrimination in the workforce. The report details that over a third of the participants surveyed have experienced bullying and verbal abuse in a workplace environment. The report states that “discrimination, bullying and verbal abuse were the most common forms of abuse workers experienced.” The article explains that many migrants experienced discrimination during the job application process due to their visa status, despite having workplace rights. The report recommends that there be better information about workplace rights and that there be a ban on discrimination on migration status in the job market, amongst other potential reforms.

Bruce Lehrmann Shocked that Media Reports Referred to Him

The Federal Court released documents on Friday this week detailing notes of a meeting with Bruce Lehrmann and his then-employer in relation to the Brittany Higgin’s interview. The notes detail Lehrmann’s initial shock that the media reports about Ms Higgin’s alleged rape at Parliament House related to him. The notes state that Mr Lehrmann had “read the story in media that morning but did not have any thought that he could have been the person involved.” The release of the documents pertains to Lehrmann’s bid to extend his time to apply for his defamation case. Mr Lehrmann is claiming that he was defamed by a news story conducted by journalist Lisa Wilkinson in relation to Ms Higgin’s alleged rape. The extension of time application was lodged with the Federal Court following the abandonment of the criminal trial last year.

President of Sydney Legacy Faces 15 Complaints of Workplace Harassment and Bullying

The president of Sydney Legacy, a charity that supports Australian military veterans’ families, has received 15 complaints pertaining to workplace bullying and harassment. The complaints are corroborated by an independent investigation, confirming that there had been two instances of “inappropriate touching.” While the president Steven Hopwood has strongly denied any instances of inappropriate conduct, he issued an “unreserved apology” in relation to treatment that was seen as “untoward, unwelcome and unwarranted.” Due to the nature of the charity organisation, which involves an election of 300 members, Hopwood has remained in his role. The article states that while CEO Michael Ducie is “unable to sack or discipline the club’s president”, he has invited workers to work from home if they “feel uncomfortable returning to the workplace due to the complaints raised.”

Former New South Wales Police Officer Charged with Raping Woman While on Duty

A former NSW police officer is facing charges of raping a woman more than two decades later after the alleged incident. Prosecutors are claiming that the officer, who was 28 at the time, raped the 17-year-old woman while he was on duty in 1998. The former officer, who is now 53 years old, was arrested on Tuesday this week and is currently facing two counts of assault with act of indecency and two counts of sexual intercourse without consent. The former officer was granted bail and is listed to appear at Tweed Heads Local Court on 24 April 2023.

Amendments to Anti-Discrimination Law in Canberra

The Australian Capital Territory has introduced new legal reforms to the Discrimination Act 1991, which is proposed to make Canberra “a more equal, inclusive and respectful place to live”. The new reforms will firstly apply to the public sector within the next 12 months, with other industries set to receive education and support and required to implement the protections within three years. According to the article, the recent amendments creates “a positive duty on workplaces to eliminate discrimination, sexual harassment and unlawful vilification.” Situations where the Act does not apply include “workers in private homes, sport, clubs and voluntary bodies, insurance and superannuation and religious bodies.”