What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 3 June 2019 – 9 June 2019

ECU Survey Shows Humour Not Well Received by Managers Delivering Organisational Change
Edith Cowan University Professor, Stephen Teo, has found some interesting results on the effect of office humour in relation to organisational change within the public sector. In a survey of 312 public sector employees who had seen organisational or structural changes in their workplace over the previous 12 months, Teo found that humour can have a negative impact on employee morale. Teo found that when the workplace was being merged or restructured, employees felt a ‘psychological breach of contract’, and a feeling that the job and workplace they signed up for had been removed from under them. The findings showed that attempts by Managers to joke or make light of the situation when the workplace was in upheaval failed to lighten the mood, and most likely made the situation worse. Additionally, Professor Teo cited studies in the United States which found “empirical evidence that humour has a negative consequence on our wellbeing’, while ‘some people actually see it as an act of workplace bullying’. ‘It’s probably very healthy for employees to be using humour among themselves, but not for the jokes to be coming from the person pulling all the levers controlling their work lives’, Teo said. Rather, Professor Teo suggested Managers would be better advised to give staff appropriate information concerning any changes and how they would be affected.

Qld Law Firm Achieves Gender Equity in Partnerships
A Queensland law firm has attained a 50/50 gender partnership split with the recent elevation of senior commercial and property lawyer Helen Kay as an equity partner in the firm. Appointed alongside Tom Rynders, Dan Creevey and Clare Creevey at Creevey Russell Lawyers, the firm is proud to have achieved this gender-equalising milestone. Clare Creevey said ‘we have been committed to building a gender-equal firm, and addressing economic inequality for women is an important issue for the legal community’.

In contrast, the national rates, according to The Australian Financial Review’s Law Partnership survey, show female partners are still outnumbered by men four to one. In total, women now constitute 27.4 per cent of partners at 54 firms as at the January survey results, an increase from 27.1 per cent in July.

Sinister Sexual Harassment by Principal of Law Firm
Owen Hughes, the principal of a law firm was found by the Federal Circuit Court to have “unequivocally” engaged in sexual harassment with the victim, Ms Hill being awarded $170,000 in damages.
Mr Hughes conduct was persistent and preyed on Ms Hill being a single mum who needed the job.
The behaviours included going on a business trip and entering her bedroom in his underwear and on another occasion entering her bedroom when she was only wrapped in a towel, coercing hugs from Ms Hill on a number of occasions by “blocking her exit and putting her in a position where she felt she could not decline” as well as a ‘bombardment” of emails making it clear he was interested in a romantic relationship
In addition, there were veiled threats that her employment depended upon her entering into a sexual or romantic relationship. The court acknowledged the power imbalance and the need for Ms Hill to have a job impacted her ability to do anything about the behaviour or leave the job.