What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 24 – 30 December 2018

More Negative Comments About Australian Border Force’s Toxic Culture
The Australian Border Force is slammed once again after a second employee’s suicide is linked to the quasi-military agency’s ‘toxic work culture’. Earlier this month it was revealed that a Melbourne-based recruit trainee, who took her own life in 2016, left a suicide note which cited difficulties at work. Since then, current and former employees have come out describing the work environment at Border Force as beset by bullying, intimidation and harassment. It has since emerged that Perth-based Border Force officer, Michael Bradley, was also experiencing work-related problems before committing suicide in May this year. Due to a medical condition, Mr Bradley only worked part-time. However, in the weeks leading up to his death, a fellow colleague stated that Border Force management pressured Bradley to work full-time and night shifts. Sources confirm that Mr Bradley resisted this push, as he was legitimately concerned about the effect this would have on his wellbeing. Politicians have come out in response to these tragedies, urging for an ‘urgent’ cultural change within the Border Force Agency.

Teacher Rightly Dismissed for Making Sugar Daddy Comments to Student
A disgraced private school teacher at an Adelaide Catholic School lost his unfair dismissal case. The 50-year-old former middle school teacher at St Columba College was relieved of his position in May after having made inappropriate comments to a 16-year-old pupil. Among other things, he remarked that he would be a better boyfriend to the student that her current one and then offered to become the pupil’s ‘sugar daddy’. The teacher claimed that his later dismissal was unjust, as it prejudiced his ability to obtain employment in the future. The Fair Work Commission promptly refused this claim, with the Commissioner’s deputy president, Peter Anderson, describing the former teacher’s behaviour as ‘inappropriate, unprofessional’ and a valid reason for summary dismissal’.

US Subsidiary of BHP Settles Racial Discrimination Case
Pinto Mining Group, a US subsidiary of Australian mining giant BHP, has settled in a workplace discrimination case concerning racially-charged incidents that took place in 2016. Former employee, Terry McGeachy alleged that colleagues taunted him by placing nooses and Ku Klux Klan symbols in his work truck and communal spaces. McGeachy, an African-American man residing in Arizona, commenced court proceedings, seeking general and punitive damages for his resulting Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Initially BHP robustly defended these allegations. However, following mediation in October, the mining behemoth settled for what is speculated to be a low 7 figure sum. This is not the first time a large Australian company has settled over allegations of racial discrimination this year. Several months ago, ANZ settled a claim brought forward by a former trader who alleged that she was subject to racial discrimination within the New York division.

Study Reveals Sleep Patterns Negatively Affected by Workplace Incivility
A recent study published in the Occupational Health Science Journal has found that workplace incivility affects the sleep patterns of not only the staff member involved, but their partners too. Researchers at Portland State University (PSU) surveyed over 300 couples in a variety of occupations. Participants who experienced workplace rudeness, sarcasm or demeaning language reported an increase in insomnia symptoms over participants with pleasant work environments. The study then further examined sleep patterns of the participants spouses, finding similar symptoms of sleep deprivation in couples who work in the same company or occupation. Charlotte Fritz, the study’s lead author, said that this is ‘because work-linked couples have a better idea about what’s going on in each other’s work’. Fritz, having seen the effects of workplace incivility, recommended that ‘organisations do everything within their power to create a culture of civility by imposing zero-tolerance policies and offering civility training’. In the absence of institutional support however, Fritz recommends detaching from negative work experiences by engaging in hobbies or meditation during non-work hours.

MD of ABC Launches Unfair Dismissal Action
Michelle Guthrie, former managing director of the ABC, has launched an unfair dismissal case in the Federal Court of Australia. Guthrie alleges that her recent dismissal was in contravention of a general protection under the Fair Work Act (2009) (Cth). She claims that adverse action was taken against her because of previous complaints she had made to corporate. Guthrie further alleges that it was unlawful to dismiss her during her term. The ABC dispute these grounds, maintaining that Guthrie was simply dismissed because the board had lost confidence in her. The ABC, in response to Guthrie’s recent push to return, has slammed the arrangement as ‘completely unworkable’.

Allegation of Racist Behaviour by Police Officer to Civilian
An anonymous police officer has been accused of racist conduct while on the job. According to Caleb Strik, a witness who filmed his behaviour, the NSW senior constable told a driver to “go back to China” on Christmas day, before proceeding to allegedly hit the man. NSW Police are investigating the film.

Former Liberal MP Criticises Party’s Bullying and Harassing Culture
Former Liberal member Julia Banks has criticised the party’s culture and the way it treated her. The now independent member for Chisholm said that during the coup against Malcolm Turnbull, her colleagues harassed and bullied her against voting for Julie Bishop, to vote instead for Scott Morrison. Ms Banks spoke of how some of her right-wing colleagues would interact with her in a condescending manner and give her the “eye-roll” if she advocated for gender equality, such as raising programs to increase female participation. Ms Banks also brought up the racism she experienced, as the child of Greek immigrants.