What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 3 – 9 December 2018

Being Called a Kiwi is not Racial Discrimination
A former employee at an Adelaide bakery has had her racial discrimination case dismissed. New Zealander Julie Savage worked as a supervisor at Vili’s Cakes where she claimed the managing director called her “Kiwi”. This incited others to use the term, too, causing her “disrespect” and forming the basis for what she alleges was discrimination. However, Judge Leonie Farrell of the South Australian Employment Tribunal found that the term was “not of itself offensive”. Moreover, Ms Savage “did not allege that she suffered unfavourable treatment” because of it, which detriment is required as per the Equal Opportunity Act.

CEO of City of Playford Dismissed of Inappropriate Workplace Behaviours
The chief executive of an Adelaide city council has been dismissed following an investigation into misconduct. Mal Hemmerling, the former chief executive of the City of Playford, had previously been suspended. However, he was dismissed from his position with the release of an independent investigation into allegations of bullying, sexual harassment and mismanagement. Deputy Mayor Marilyn Baker said the council was “determined to provide a safe and secure workplace for all” and that they had little choice but to fire Mr Hemmerling as he had not wanted to be interviewed or to respond to allegations. His lawyer, Greg Griffin, denies that he refused to be interviewed.

New Allegations Against Labor MP Emma Husar
New allegations have been made against Labor MP Emma Husar and her “unthinkable office”. Four of her former staff members made complaints directly to the Labor party head office countering what they describe as her “ludicrous” claims to the public. They denied being a few “bad apples” and alleged to have been “subjected to Emma Husar’s bullying, harassment and unethical behaviour”. Most of the original 44 allegations against Ms Husar were previously struck out in the process of a six-month-long investigation. Ms Husar says that any criticisms of her have come from a “disgruntled fired member of [her] staff”. However, Lee Bellia, formerly the secretary to Kristina Keneally, described her as a “bully” who “would repeatedly target a specific employee and then mercilessly badger”.

Former Director of Newspaper Fined for Bullying
The Federal Circuit Court has fined the former director of a newspaper publisher for bullying their employee. The employee was a journalist for the Serbian-language Novosti newspaper between 2003 and 2011. In 2010, he sought advice from the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) when the publisher, FL Press Pty Ltd, decided to convert their full-time employment to a part-time basis. After advising FL Press of his rights, its sole director, Theodore Skalkos, bullied him. Among other things, Mr Skalkos threatened to dismiss the journalist if he refused to take on the extra duties of an editor on leave. Ultimately, he was dismissed, based in part on his request for help from the FWO. The Court held that Mr Skalkos’ behaviour was “bullying and intimidatory” and ordered him to pay $27,500 to the journalist.

Virtual Reality Being Used to Train Employees in EEO
Domain Group is making use of virtual reality to train their employees in areas of equal opportunity. Staff immersed themselves in two-minute-long virtual reality scenarios to give them experiences of exclusion and bullying. The program, developed by Equal Reality, is a part of a larger diversity and inclusion program and catered to Domain’s 700 employees. Of these, 98% said the program helped them understand their role in diversity. Rick Martin, the Equal Reality co-founder, said: “The results were incredible. The VR was able to give everyone strong empathy and an emotional reaction to issues around bullying and power”.

Report Shows Toxic Culture in Australian Border Force
Leaked internal documents have shown a toxic culture in the Australian Border Force. According to census data, 22% of staff members were the victims of harassment or bullying at work while 21% had suffered discrimination. Of the latter, the majority were victims of age and gender discrimination. These results are higher than those for the Home Affairs Department and more generally of the public sector.

Former Army Officer Guilty of Rape of Work Colleague
A former army officer has been found guilty of rape before a court martial panel. At a 2017 work function, Rhiley Boyson used a beer bottle to violate a colleague, who lay on the floor while trying to prevent his pants being removed. While parties accepted there was no sexual motivation, the panel held that Mr Boyson had nonetheless raped his victim, who continues to suffer from anxiety. Mr Boyson has been demoted, removed from the army and imprisoned for three months.