What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 24 August 2020 – 30 August 2020

Gymnastics Australia Inquiry Set to Reveal Spectrum of Abuse Allegations

The Human Rights Commission is conducting an independent review into Gymnastics Australia. The review follows the ‘Athlete A’ documentary, which exposed systemic instances of sexual abuse within the sport across the United States. The documentary saw dozens of Australian gymnasts to speak up about their own experiences. Following this, Lawyer Adair Donaldson is now representing over 40 Australian gymnasts who have alleged physical, mental and emotional abuse. The allegations range from ‘extreme’ and ‘punishing’ training to disciplining those who cry or show emotion. Gymnastics Australia CEO Kitty Chiller has not provided comment.

Austrend International Under Fire for Discrimination Against Pregnant Employee

The Federal Court has awarded a Perth mother compensation after her employer declined to have her return to work after a period of unpaid maternity leave. The complainant, who fell pregnant with her first child in 2015, was due to recommence work in April 2016. Despite falling pregnant for a second time in March 2016, she informed her employer, a food distribution company, that she wished to return to work in April 2016 as planned. However, her employer, Austrend International Pty Ltd, alerted her that by falling pregnant a second time, she was extending her unpaid leave another 9 months. Despite being refused her return date, the complainant alleged that she was in her rights to return in April 2016. The Federal Court found in favour of the complainant, holding that Austrend took adverse action against the mother on the basis of her gender and pregnancy. Adverse action is a breach of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), and as such, the Court penalised Austrend $15,500 and its company director, Denzil Rao, $2,800.

AMP Resignations Over Handling of Sexual Harassment Allegations

Former AMP chairman David Murray and Treasury secretary John Fraser have resigned over the handling of sexual harassment allegations against recently promoted AMP Capital boss Boe Pahari. Following Mr Pahari’s promotion, it was revealed that former AMP staff, Julia Szlakowski, levelled a 7-page sexual harassment complaint against the AMP heavyweight in 2017. The allegations included invitations to late-night VIP clubs and offerings to buy expensive clothes. And while the complaint resulted in an internal investigation which saw Mr Pahari’s ‘fined’ $500,000, he continued in his role at AMP. In view of Mr Pahari’s recent promotion, AMP sought to hush these events – branding them ‘lower-level breaches’ of the company’s code. However, Ms Szlakowski and Labor Senator Deborah O’Neill both spoke out publicly about the 2018 investigation. And with mounting pressure from investors, the two top executives at AMP resigned. Moving forward, AMP is under significant pressure to improve its business model, reporting processes and culture. In particular, RMIT University sessional lecturer, Andrew Linden, has criticised the company for its use of internal investigation procedures. Mr Linden said that ‘international investigations create more problems than they solve.’ He said that by ensuring that processes have some external oversight, better and more transparent decisions can be made.

Sexual Harassment Can Amount To Common Assault

A recent case has confirmed that sexual assault can amount to common assault. The case concerned a 22-year-old bar manager, Annabel Bassil, who was slapped on the rear at work by a male patron. Despite the 41-year-old man claiming he was merely ‘excited’ his NRL team won, he later pleaded guilty to the charge of common assault under s 61 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). Ms Bassil said it was important to speak out as sexual harassment is rife within the hospitality industry. Her belief is confirmed by a 2018 Australian Human Rights Commission survey that found that 89% of female hospitality workers report having experienced sexual harassment in the past 5 years.

Ellen Degeneres Show Removed From Free-to-air TV In Australia

Popular daytime talk show, the Ellen DeGeneres show, has been cut from free-to-air TV in Australia, amid allegations of a toxic workplace culture. The allegations come from former staff and celebrity guests. Many accused the 62-year-old American comedian of overlooking and contributing to mistreatment of staff – including instances of bullying, harassment and racism. Channel Nine, which holds rights over the show, is in talks over whether it will renew them next month.

Investigation Finds Professor Peter Rathjen Committed Serious Sexual Misconduct

South Australia’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has found that former University of Adelaide vice-chancellor Peter Rathjen sexually harassed two women. In a lengthy statement, Commissioner Bruce Lander stated that Professor Rathjen acted inappropriately toward several staff members. This included touching two university staff members and kissing one at an after-work hours function last year. The Commission found that Rathjen evaded all previous questions about his behaviour, including from former University of Adelaide chancellor, Kevin Scarce. In the full 170-page report, the Commission took the view that Rathjen engaged in ‘serious misconduct.’ The report follows a confidential investigation in 2018 into allegations of sexual misconduct while Rathjen was the Dean of Science at the University of Melbourne. Mr Rathjen has since resigned as vice-chancellor of the University of Adelaide, citing health concerns. The University’s current chancellor, Catherine Branson AC QC, has apologised for Professor Rathjen’s conduct on behalf of the university. The university has yet to comment on whether it will re-issue degree certificates without Mr Rathjen’s signature.

KPMG To Review Compulsory Retirement Clause

In view of the highly publicised discrimination case between former Deloitte partner, Colin Brown, and the professional services company, KPMG has indicated it will review its compulsory retirement clause. The clause currently requires partners who reach the age of 58 to retire.

Childcare Key To Getting Women Back To Work

Australia’s sex discrimination commissioner, Kate Jenkins, has committed to improving Australia’s child care system, stating it’s a significant barrier for working women.