What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 3-9 April 2017?

Videos for Use in Sexual Harassment Education
David Schwimmer (who plays Ross on Friends) has produced six short films addressing sexual harassment in the workplace. The videos – The Actor, The Boss, The Co-worker, The Doctor, The Photographer and The Politician — highlight how sexual harassment can occur in different circumstances.

Channel Seven News Reader Reaches Private Settlement for Unfair Dismissal
Channel Seven newsreader Talitha Cummins has reached a settlement with the Seven Network after claiming that she had been unfairly dismissed. In January 2017, Ms Cummins applied for an unfair dismissal remedy after being terminated whilst allegedly on maternity leave. The details of the settlement have not been released. Ms Cummins will not be reinstated at the Seven Network.

Cricketer, Steve O’Keefe fined for Inappropriate Comments at a Cricketing Function
Cricketer, Steve O’Keefe has been sanctioned by Cricket Australia over a drunken incident where he made “highly inappropriate comments” at a Cricket New South Wales function. Mr O’Keefe was found to have breached Article 2.2.11 of the Cricket Australia Code of Conduct by engaging in conduct unbecoming of a representative. As this was his second offence, Mr O’Keefe was fined $20,000 and will undergo counselling.

Bullying Claim by Town Planner of Cairns Regional Council
Patricia Read, a former town planner with Cairns Regional Council is claiming that she is suffering form a psychological injury as a result of on-going bullying and harassment in the workplace. Ms Read is attempting to be re-issued with her leave entitlements and claims that she was forced to take time off to receive treatment for her injury. The matter has been listed for trial.

Allegations of Bullying from CE of Victim Support Service
Victim Support Service Chief Executive Julian Roffe is currently in the spotlight after Queensland opposition deputy leader, Vickie Chapman asked Attorney-General John Rau about the number of pending workers compensation or industrial tribunal claims involving allegations of bullying by Mr Roffe. The Attorney-General was unable to answer this question.

Ms Chapman has since written to the Auditor-General requesting an investigation into the matter. Ms Chapman advised that she has been told, “two managers are currently on leave and have pending workers compensation claims alleging bullying by [Roffe].” Ms Chapman also wrote that it was her understanding that “one of these claims has recently settled in favour of the employee and these cases will take their usual course.” Victim Support Service confirmed that “all Return to Work SA claims have been determined [and] one has been accepted […] The other claim was rejected.” The Auditor-General has not commented on this matter.

QLD Corrective Services High Rate of Bullying
A survey of 1270 Queensland Corrective Services employees has found that 74% of respondents have experienced or witnessed bullying or harassment. The report notes that there were inadequate procedures to address allegations of bullying and insufficient information available to staff who wished to seek assistance with bullying or harassment. The report states “staff openly report a lack of faith in the investigation process as the most significant reason for not reporting bullying and harassment, with a belief that complaining is pointless based on previous experience.” The report makes ten recommendations, including the introduction of a comprehensive training program to address bullying and harassment, the development of a policy designed to prevent workplace bullying and the establishment of a dedicated unit to coordinate responses to bullying. The recommendations are expected to be implemented at the end of 2017.

Speaking to Nursing Home Residents in An Aggressive Tone Valid Reason for Dismissal
Colleen Moody applied for an unfair dismissal remedy (in the case of Moody v Tricare Limited [2017] FWC 20) in respect of her termination of her employment by TriCare Limited. Ms Moody’s employment as a personal carer was terminated on the basis of allegations that she breached the TriCare Code of Conduct (Code) by speaking to residents in an aggressive tone of voice. Commissioner Simpson found that Ms Moody’s conduct was in clear breach of the Code and provided TriCare with a valid reason to terminate her employment. Commissioner Simpson held that Ms Moody’s dismissal was not harsh, unjust or unreasonable.

Sexual Misconduct Allegations Against BT Financial Group CIO
BT Financial Group Chief Investment Officer, Martyn Wild, has been the subject of an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct. The substance of these allegations has not been disclosed. It is suggested that Mr Wild “taunted” one of the women for being fat and engaged in unwanted physical contact with by placing his arms around the shoulders of colleagues and stroking their hair. Mr Wild has been issued with a first and final warning and required to apologise to his team.

Qantas Flight Attend Dismissed for Lying about Stealing Small Quantity of Alcohol
Flight attendant, David Dawson made an application for a remedy for unfair dismissal (in the case of Dawson v Qantas Airways Limited [2017] FWCFB 1712) against his former employer Qantas Airways Limited. Mr Dawson was dismissed because a small amount of alcohol, the property of Qantas was found on him, in a random search of the crew following a flight from Perth to Sydney on 14 February 2016. Qantas dismissed Mr Dawson because they considered that he had breached the Standards of Conduct Policy by stealing Qantas property and giving a false explanation as to why he had the alcohol.

At first instance, the FWC accepted that this was a valid reason for dismissal. However, the FWC considered that with respect to Mr Dawson’s age, medical and family issues, length of service and the small value of items stolen, the dismissal was harsh. Qantas was ordered to pay Mr Dawson $33,731.

The Full Board of the Fair Work Commission held that the Deputy President failed to take into account a material consideration, namely the dishonesty of Mr Dawson, when determining whether the dismissal was harsh, unjust or unreasonable. The appeal was upheld and the decision was quashed.

On re-hearing, the FWC determined that Mr Dawson engaged in conduct that breached the Qantas Group Cabin Crew Operations Manual and the Standards of Conduct Policy. The FWC determined that this conduct provided Qantas with a valid reason to dismiss Mr Dawson. The FWC was not satisfied that the exceptional circumstances claimed by Mr Dawson – the trivial value of the alcohol, inconsistent treatment of another employee and mitigating factors relating to Mr Dawson – outweighed the prohibited conduct. The FWC held that the dismissal was not harsh, unjust or unreasonable.