What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 21 – 27 December 2015

Discrimination Based on Political views

Kim Vuga has alleged that her employer, Townsville Hospital and Health Services, has discriminated against her on the basis of her controversial political views. Ms Vuga intends to campaign for a Senate seat in the 2016 Queensland Election running on an anti-Muslim, anti-immigration platform.

Ms Vuga received a letter from Danielle Hornsby, the CEO of Townville Hospital inviting Ms Vuga to resign from her position within seven days. Ms Vuga was told that as a public service employee, she was required under section 44 of the Constitution to resign before contesting an election.

Ms Vuga believes that her superiors did not like her controversial views and consequently were seeking to get her out of the public service. Ms Vuga responded to the letter stating that she was “not yet a candidate.” Professor Anne Twomey has said that section 44 would not apply to candidates like Ms Vuga as “we are nowhere near the date that a Senate election will be called.” Ms Vuga would only be expected to resign by the time nominations close.

Workplace Relations Report regarding Unfair Dismissal
The Productivity Commission has released the Workplace Relations Framework Final Report this week. The Commission suggested several reforms to the unfair dismissal framework to prevent “spurious cases” from going to settlement. The Commission noted that under the current unfair dismissal system, an employee who should be dismissed, may still receive compensation due to faults in the termination process. It recommends making it impossible for procedural errors by an employer to result in reinstatement or compensation for a former employee

The Commission also recommended charging a non-refundable fee to lodge an unfair dismissal claim, and charging a second non-refundable fee for any case that makes it to arbitration as a way of preventing employees lodging spurious claims.

However business groups have suggested that these reform attempts have failed to address the issue of unfair dismissal within small businesses. Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chief Executive Mark Stone stated that the Productivity Commission failed to remove the burden of unfair dismissal for businesses with under 20 employees.

Currently an employer who has a valid ground for dismissing an employee, such as in the case of Sheng He v Peacock Brothers & Wilson Lac v Peacock Brothers [2013], (where two employees were dismissed after punching one another in the head in an argument) can end up being liable for unfair dismissal if they have not followed the correct process for conducting the investigation.

If you want to ensure that you are not opening yourself up to an unfair dismissal claim due to not having and/or following the correct processes then call Franca on (08) 6102 4411 for a risk assessment. We are currently taking bookings for 2016.