What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 28 December 2015 – 3 January 2016

Workplace Sexual Harassment Payout
David Smith, a Victorian post office worker has been ordered to pay a former employee $332,280 in damages after sexually harassing her for months. The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal found that Mrs Collins had been subjected to 33 incidents of sexual harassment including inappropriate touching, lewd text messages, and Mr Smith threatening to have sex with her even when she said she would not sleep with him.

In determining damages, the Court noted that prior to the incidents of sexual harassment, Mrs Collins was “happily married and otherwise presented as socially outgoing and a competent and valued employee.” Following the incidents, Mrs Collins suffered severely, having been diagnosed with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder and anxiety disorder. Mrs Collins social relationships have been inhibited and her marital relations have come under severe stress as a result of the incidents. In accordance with those findings, Justice Jenkins awarded $332,280 compensation comprising of general damages of $180,000; aggravated damages of $20,000; loss of net earnings and superannuation of $120,000 and out of pocket expenses of $12,280.

Ballarat Health Service Bullying Claim
Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy has commissioned a consultant to review Ballarat Health Service’s workplace culture in the wake of bullying complaints. One of the latest claims of bullying has been brought by oncologist Leon Ng who worked at Ballarat hospital in 2013. Dr Ng alleged that he suffered from an aggressive bullying campaign while working in the oncology unit at Ballarat’s base hospital. Dr Ng claimed that he suffered from “daily verbal abuse, in front of the whole team during ward rounds” which left him in a vulnerable position. Dr Ng subsequently failed his peer review in Ballarat, primarily because he demonstrated “poor relationships with colleagues.” As a result the Royal Australian College of Physicians placed caveats on Dr Ng’s registration, stating that he had “significant problems with interpersonal skills.” Despite this caveat being removed, Dr Ng believes this had caused permanent damage to his reputation and career within Australia.

Canberra Hospitals Under Attack for Bullying Issues
The Australian Medical Association Doctors in Training ACT survey has reinforced the findings of a KPMG report revealing long-standing bullying, harassment and sexism within Canberra hospitals.

The respondents to the Doctors in Training Survey – interns, registrars and registered medical officers – worked predominantly (88%) at the Canberra Hospital. The survey revealed that 50% of junior doctors had been bullied, and 4% had experienced sexual harassment within the past 12 months. The majority of junior doctors (58%) believed that there was not an adequate structure in place to report concerns, and 63% felt that they were unable to raise concerns without recrimination.

The earlier KPMG Review of the Clinical Training Culture in the Canberra Hospital had raised concerns over inappropriate behaviour including sexual harassment, belittling comments, and items being thrown at junior doctors. The Report found that 76% of respondents had observed behaviours that would indicate a culture that condones/accepts bullying, discrimination and/or harassment. Similarly this report indicated that respondents viewed that any resolution of issues relating to inappropriate conduct would be timely and have an unsatisfactory outcome, or no outcome at all. Further, there was a perception that some staff were fearful of speaking up due to perceived detrimental consequences.

Health Minister Simon Corbell announced that a new body, the Clinical Culture Committee, would be created within ACT Health to implement the recommendations of the KPMG Report.