What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 29 November – 5 December 2021

Review Finds 1 In 3 Staff in Federal Parliament Experience Sexual Harassment

Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, conducted a review into sexual harassment in federal parliament. The findings show that one in three employees have experienced a form of sexual harassment. The review began in response to rape allegations made by Brittany Higgins. Ms Higgins has thanked and commended those who have contributed to the report. She noted their bravery and hopes that the report will “[inspire] immediate action”. Scott Morrison has responded, saying that the findings are “appalling” and “disturbing”. He has publicly stated, “I wish I found it more surprising.” The report includes a range of recommendations to tackle sexual harassment in politics, including targets to achieve gender parity. The report has sparked concerns for the use of non-disclosure agreements in Australia and its contribution to the practice of concealment.

Australia Will Introduce Legislation Requiring Social Media Companies to Reveal Anonymous Users Who Post Defamatory Comments

On 28 November, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that a new Bill will be introduced into Parliament. The proposed legislation will target trolling on social media through mandating that digital media platforms reveal the identity of anonymous users who post defamatory content. The legislation aims to protect people, specifically women and children who are victims of online harassment. The changes will require social media companies to have effective processes in place to take down the defamatory content. Although the legislation is intended to tackle harassment generally, it is still applicable to cases of workplace harassment that has unfolded online.

Ambulance Victoria CEO Apologises to Staff After Report Lays Bare Bullying, Discrimination

This week, the CEO of Ambulance Victoria apologised unreservedly for the culture of harassment, discrimination and bullying. This apology was paired with a promise to commit to fundamental changes in the organisation. The announcement came after the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission published its report into Ambulance Victoria. The report showed that, out of all participants, half had experienced discrimination and bullying at work. It was noted ‘with great concern’ that 33 respondents had received requests or pressure for sexual acts. 12 respondents had experienced actual or attempted sexual assault while at Ambulance Victoria. Women in the organisation were disproportionately affected by the inappropriate conduct, with most harassment being perpetrated by men against women. LGBT+ employees were also at higher risk of being harassed or bullied. One participant lost their job after reporting sexual harassment. Other participants said that the process of submitting a formal complaint “destroyed” them. All 24 recommendations have been accepted by Ambulance Victoria. Professor Walker, the CEO, has contemplated resigning in light of the report. However, he will remain in the role in an effort to change the organisation’s culture.

Female FIFO Mine Workers Fired for Filming Themselves Delivering Sex Toys To Male Colleagues

The inquiry into WA FIFO culture has led to a group of cleaning women losing their jobs. The women filmed themselves creating homemade sex toys and then gifting them to male colleagues. The incident occurred on the CITIC Pacific Mining Sino Iron site in early 2021. A spokesperson from ESS, a company in charge of female crew, has said that there is a “zero tolerance” approach to inappropriate behaviour. Further, the spokesperson noted that the industry has been attempting to eliminate discrimination and sexual harassment. The video has been labelled as “crude”, “silly”, and “unacceptable” by CITIC Pacific Mining. This is the most recent sex scandal to arise from the mining sector.

What Things Does the Craft Beer Industry Share with The Music Industry?

Both the music and beer industry are riddled with sexual harassment and discrimination against women. In music, 85% of women have experienced sexual harassment. A recent survey into the beer industry revealed that 38% of participants had been harassed at work, and 20% had been sexually harassed. 90% of these incidents were perpetuated against women. In response to the findings, the Independent Brewers Association has introduced a mandatory code of conduct. The primary requirement is that signatories agree to behave in a professional manner, respect the human dignity of all individuals regardless of “race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, gender, expression, age, disability, size or appearance, religion, or nationality”.

‘Completely Unacceptable’: Outrage Over Racial Profiling at Melbourne Supermarket

Sunshine West IGA in Melbourne has been called out for displaying signs that racially profiled “African customers”. The IGA’s parent company has described the conduct as “completely unacceptable’ and a “gross error of judgement.” The sign was displayed at the cash register and instructed staff to call for extra assistance when dealing with “African customers”. The specific wording was, “if an African customer comes to the bottle shop press the button for an assistant immediately! Minimum 2 staff in front while we serve African.” The sign was immediately removed once it came to the attention of the parent company, Metcash. Metcash is now ensuring that store staff will receive training while the company assesses what further action is appropriate. Metcash ensures that this does not reflect on IGA as an entire entity, but is a reflection of this independent branch. This incident is indicative of the broad problem with racial profiling.

Fair Work Commission Rules Unfair Dismissal In ‘Bullying’ Case but Rejects Compensation Claim

The FWC has recently rejected a compensation claim for a bullying incident because there was no proof of financial loss. The applicant had already received workers compensation payments, which the FWC deemed as sufficient. The applicant had received a psychological injury from bullying during her employment as a medical receptionist from 2011 to early 2021. The FWC ruled her dismissal as invalid. However, there was no financial issues as the employer continued to pay her superannuation and other costs while she was absent from the job. The FWC has reiterated that the decision to compensate a person for unfair dismissal is discretionary.

QLD’s Anti-Discrimination Laws May Soon Encompass Toxic Work Environments

Queensland is looking to update its anti-discrimination laws. These changes will include an expansion of the sexual harassment definition to include “toxic” work environments. Relevantly to this time of year, this definition will encompass sexualised Christmas parties. On 30 November 2021, the Queensland Human Rights Commission released a discussion paper relating to its review of the outdated Act. Queensland laws on sexual harassment generally extend further than other states, banning the conduct in both public and private situations. However, the definition still requires the action to be taken against an individual rather than a corporate entity or organisation. The changes will allow action to be taken to tackle work environments, notably those which are highly sexualised.