What’s Been happening in Australia in relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 30 November – 6 December 2015

Muslim’s subjected to High Level of Racism
In a survey of 600 Sydney Muslims conducted by the Western Sydney and Charles Stuart Universities, and the Islamic Sciences and Research Academy the results indicated that Sydney Muslims experience racism at a higher rate than other Australians. The study found 62% of Sydney Muslims had experienced racism in the workplace or when seeking employment. Unemployment was also higher amongst those surveyed (8.5%) when compared the rate of the general Sydney population (3.7%).

Employee Dismissed for Facebook Posts
Meriton Group has dismissed a supervisor, Michael Nolan, after an investigation found he had used inappropriate language on Facebook. Mr Nolan posted a comment on Clementine Ford’s ( a columnist for Daily Life) public Facebook page referring to her as a “slut.” Mr Nolan had also made other public Facebook posts, which included racist and offensive jokes. Meriton Group advised that Mr Nolan was removed from the Mertion site on the 28th of November pending an investigation, and later dismissed on the 30th of November 2015.

It will be interesting to see if Nolan goes for unfair dismissal. Meriton have fired him for behaviour not connected to his workplace in that he did not make disparaging remarks about his employer or work colleagues. The question is how much an employer can control the actions of its employees? I think this is further than the courts have stated…let’s wait and see.

Ok to Dismiss Obese forklift Driver due to Obesity
The Fair Work Commission has ruled that an obese forklift driver Ranui Parahi was fairly dismissed by Parmalat because his weight created a workplace safety issue. Mr Parahi, among other employees, completed a manual handling and risk assessment, conducted by an external occupational therapist. Mr Parahi was assessed as having a “medium to high risk” raising concerns he may not be able to safely and competently perform his role as a consequence of his weight. Mr Parahi was stood down for 10 months on the expectation he would take steps concerning his weight management. A second assessment of Mr Parahi was conducted which revealed his weight had increased by 10kg to 175kg.The occupational therapist also considered a report from a cardiologist that Mr Parahi had “severe obstructive sleep apnoea that may pose a problem when operating machinery.” The recommendation of the assessment was that Mr Parahi should only conduct “semi-sedentary work” which did not require heavy manual handling or operating mobile machinery. Mr Parahi’s weight also exceeded the forklift’s maximum safety rating.

After this second assessment, the applicant was given an opportunity to attend a meeting and supply the employer with any relevant information before the employer made a decision about the applicant. However the applicant did not attend the meeting and did not provide the employer with any further information and the employer then dismissed the applicant.

The FWC found that the dismissal was fair as the applicant was unable to undertake the inherent requirements of the role of Cool Room operator and the employer followed an appropriate process of providing sufficient time and opportunities for the applicant to address the weight issue.

This is a rare example of an employer who followed the appropriate process and was held not to have unfairly dismissed its employee.

Independent Review into Sex Discrimination/Harassment
The Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission is conducting an independent review into sex discrimination and harassment including predatory behaviour among Victoria Police personnel. This report is expected to produce damning findings, as it is alleged that “some of the issues discovered are even worse than those found in the ADF.”

Australia Lagging in Disability Employment
Australia ranks 21 out of 29 OECD Countries in employment for people with disability with 45% of people with a disability living on or near the poverty line. People with a disability in Australia are only half as likely to be employed as people without a disability. These statistics are due to a plethora of factors including physical problems, access and general attitudes of the population.

One workplace that is attempting to readdress this imbalance is PwC who have developed an access and inclusion plan to increase the number of people they employ with a disability

Australian college of Surgeons Make Changes to Complaint Process
The Australian college of Surgeons unveiled a revised complaints system after acknowledging problems of sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying. The revised system includes independent investigation of complaints, education and employer collaboration. The College hopes this action will improve the rates of female practising specialists.