What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 30 September 2019 – 6 October 2019

Detailed Study on Workplace Bullying Reveals Systemic Causes
A new study conducted by researchers at the University of South Australia has found that two-thirds of Australians workers have experienced bullying. While the study found that only 10% of employees identified as ‘victims’, the reality is much more shocking. The findings placed Australia as the sixth-highest offender for workplace bullying, compared to the 31 European countries studied. Michelle Tuckey, the study’s lead researcher, said that workplace bullying should be seen as ‘symptoms of the underlying disease’ of wider cultural and systemic issues within an organisation. ‘Bullying plays out during interactions between people, but it’s actually coming from the way work is designed and organised,’ she explained. ‘It’s the way people and tasks are coordinated together that allows bullying to flourish or not.’ The study identified ten factors that facilitated ‘bullying culture’. These factors included working hours, entitlements coordination, performance management, task allocation, training, career opportunities, and performance monitoring. When dealing with bullying in the workplace, Tuckey has urged organisations to view ‘isolated’ incidences as indicators of larger issues. ‘Because it’s seen as a pattern of behaviour between individuals, it’s very easy to just focus on the behaviour, but the focus needs to shift to the underlying ways the work is organised if bullying is going to be prevented’, Tuckey concluded.

Female Firefighters Resign Due to Sexual Harassment and Bullying
Three female firefighters have quit amid allegations of indecent assault, sexual harassment and bullying at a station in regional NSW. The trio all left the organisation in the past six months, claiming there was a toxic “bully-boy” culture at the station.

FRNSW is now investigating the circumstances surrounding the mass departures.Complaints include being groped by a male firefighter, being ostracised by working from a rundown shed, separated from the male firefighters, being told to “get on your knees, where you belong”, and pressured for sex by a male colleague.

The women say, post complaining, they were treated as “troublemakers” and faced discrimination that varied from not being allowed to drive trucks, having uniform requests denied and being subjected to misogynistic language.

Concerns About Religious Discrimination Bill
The Diversity Council has warned that the coalition’s religious discrimination bill could protect bullies and thwart workplace inclusivity. The draft bill would prevent employers from adopting codes of conduct that ban religious speech in the workplace or on social media. In a submission to the Scrutiny of Bills Committee, the Council argued that this ban would leave employers unable to prevent bullying. The submission argued that the provision would enable religious speech to ‘have greater protection from employer intervention than any other statement or expression.’ Diversity Council’s chief executive, Lisa Annese, said the bill ‘would impair organisational efforts to implement diversity and inclusion policies.’ She submitted that the bill would create ‘absurd situations’ where homophobic comments made by religious employees are protected, but the same statements made by non-religious employees are not.

Sexual Innuendo on Poster of Employee Found to be Sexual Harassment
A former Sydney Water Corporation employee has won a sexual harassment and discrimination claim (In the case of Yelda v Sydney Water Corporation; Yelda v Vitality Works Australia Pty Limited) in the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT). The Tribunal found Sydney Water and Vitality Works Australia guilty of discriminating against a female employee when the agencies featured her photo in a campaign, accompanied by the words: “Feel great – lubricate”. While the employee agreed to be photographed for the campaign in 2015, she did not consent to its salacious and sexualised content. She also did not consent to the poster being placed outside a men’s bathroom. Following the campaign, the women reported experiencing sexual harassment from colleagues. While Sydney Water took the poster down and apologised, the aggrieved employee resigned and commenced proceedings. The tribunal is set to determine damages in an upcoming hearing.