What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 22 January 2024 – 28 January 2024

Lawyer Fired for Internet Browsing History Receives Compensation

A lawyer claimed he was fired in relation to his internet browsing history, among other performance issues. His employer argued that it had a valid reason for his dismissal as the lawyer had “wasted” a significant amount of time on the internet instead of assisting a valuable client. In May 2023, the director of Chrysiliou IP Pty Limited expressed concerns about the lawyer’s perceived lack of responsiveness to a client’s legal matter. He told the lawyer in an email “I am a little concerned about this – as mentioned a couple of times before, the client has indicated that this is urgent yet no draft or even an email with an update has been sent to the client!” The lawyer was warned a final time in June 2023, with the director stating in an email “your lack of communication with the client and with me, as principal of the firm, has brought the firm into disrepute and has damaged its reputation. I have had a long-standing relationship with this client.” The lawyer was summarily dismissed the following week for serious misconduct, without being afforded the opportunity to respond to the allegations. In its decision, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) said that the lawyer “chose to prioritise other activities over the [client’s] matter.” It said that “[the employer] had a valid reason for dismissal” but that the employer’s “actions in bringing a swift end to [his] employment upon discovery of the browsing history have resulted in procedural deficiencies in relation to the dismissal, including a failure to notify [him] of the [true] reason for dismissal.” The FWC found that the dismissal was harsh and awarded the lawyer proper compensation.

The Law Council of Australia Warns Proposed Sexual Harassment Changes Could Clog Courts with “Unmeritorious” Claims

The Law Council of Australia (LCA) has warned that Labor’s proposed changes to remove cost barriers for applicants in sexual harassment and discrimination cases could result in “arbitrary and unintended consequences,” including clogging the courts with “unmeritorious” cases. The Law Council said in a submission to a parliamentary inquiry that it was concerned the bill tilted the balance towards complainants of sexual harassment and placed the burden of financial risk on the accused. Under the federal government’s proposed amendments, applicants would be protected from costs orders, despite if their case is unsuccessful. The attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, said that the amendments would “remove a significant barrier for those seeking justice through federal court proceedings for unlawful discrimination matter”. In its submission, the Law Council of Australia stated that it is “concerned that the costs protection bill tilts the balance overly in favour of the applicant and moves the financial risk and disincentive for unmeritorious claims to the respondents.” Further, it said that “notwithstanding the bill’s provisions regarding vexatious or unreasonable proceedings, this may result in large numbers of applicants bringing unmeritorious and protracted litigation without sufficient incentives to ensure efficiency within the justice system.”

Adelaide Airport Settles Dispute with Former Disability Discrimination Commissioner

Adelaide Airport has settled a dispute with the former disability discrimination commissioner, Graeme Innes, over a “humiliating and distressing” experience with security screening. Mr Innes, who is blind, had lodged a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission after he had travelled through Adelaide Airport with his assistance dog in May 2022. He said he was refused access to use the body scanner and had been asked to use a walk-through x-ray scanner, with his guide dog using it separately. Mr Innes said that his dog’s metal harness had trigged the alarm, and that his dog needed a pat down. Mr Innes said that he had not been treated fairly by the security staff at the airport and that the experience left him feeling “angry and stressed.” He said that “people with disability know how challenging air travel can be, and that experience needs to be more inclusive.” Further, he said that “I’m glad Adelaide Airport has listened to my concerns and pleased we have agreed on common-sense solutions.” While the settlement is confidential, a spokesperson for Adelaide Airport said that “the dialogue we have had with Mr Innes has helped us to refine our processes and further enhance our customer experience.” The spokesperson said that “all customer-facing staff and contractors receive disability awareness training, and we will now ensure training will be delivered by organisations run by people with disability.”

Perth GP Medical Licence Suspended for Making Inappropriate Comments to Four Women

A Perth general practitioner (GP) has had his medical licence suspended after he made inappropriate comments to four women. The State Administrative Tribunal ruled this week that Andrew Dunn, a GP at Mundaring Medical Centre, was to be banned for practicing medicine for five months and ordered to undergo sexual harassment and boundary violations training. The Medical Board had previously investigated four complaints against Mr Dunn spanning a 10-year period from 2013 to 2022. On one occasion in October 2018, Mr Dunn had told a female patient, who had sought treatment for a urinary tract infection, that “a girl that looks like you, you’re probably having it [sex] two or three times a day, so that might be too much.” Mr Dunn then commented on Holland being full of beautiful women in short skirts and riding bicycles, while joking that the patient must have “no sex for 10 years.” On another occasion in 2013, Mr Dunn repeatedly told a female patient she was “looking good” and that he “bet all the young boys were chasing her about” when she attended the Mundaring Medical Centre in relation to an eye infection. In 2021, he made sexualised comments to and inappropriately touched a pharmaceutical sales representative by pulling her close and touching her leg while she showed him a YouTube video.