What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 4 February 2019 – 10 February 2019

David Jones Settles Discrimination Claim Against CEO
Upmarket department store David Jones has settled a discrimination claim brought forward against former CEO, David Thomas. The complaint was made last November by a member of the David Jones merchandising team in regard to Mr Thomas’ conduct. Details of the allegations have remained confidential; however, a David Jones spokesperson confirmed last week that a cash settlement was reached between the parties. Though no formal admission of wrong-doing was made, this week Mr Thomas abruptly announced his resignation as CEO of David Jones. This comes only 18 months into his 5-year contract. The company has maintained that the Former CEO’s resignation was unrelated to the allegations and rather because of ‘personal reasons’. This was supported by an external investigation conducted by law firm, Ashurst, in which ‘no evidence was found to support the claim’.

High Level Of Bullying In NSW Public Schools
2018 ‘People Matter Employee Survey’ has shed light on top-down bullying within the NSW public school sector. Nearly 25% of public high school teachers reported having experienced bullying within the last year, while over 40% reported having witnessed bullying. Workplace bullying expert, Caroline Dean, has been employed by public schools around NSW to undertake ‘root cause analyses’ in response to these findings. Dean found that school systems tend to acutely focus on ‘technical skills’ when promoting staff. The consequence is that employees with poor social or leadership skills ‘slip their way up the ladder’. Dean said ‘[j]ust because someone is a good teacher, doesn’t mean they’re a good leader’. In response to rife levels of cultural toxicity, over 200 NSW teachers have banded together to launch the ‘Bullied Teachers Support Network’ – an online forum providing support for teachers across Australia.

Female Surgeons Change Career Due to bullying and Sexual Harassment
A recent study has revealed that bullying and sexual harassment are the top reasons why female surgeons change careers. The damning study found that while women make up over 60% of medical students within Australia, they comprise only 11% of all surgeons. Of the twelve participants in the study, one female surgeon’s story attracted media headlines. The study detailed how Dr Yumiko Kadota was refused support while working on-call for 24 consecutive days. When Dr Kadota raised concerns about her working conditions, she was dismissed as an ‘emotional women’. Her extreme levels of fatigue and sleep deprivation resulted in a car crash and six weeks of hospitalisation. General Surgeon Dr Rhea Liang, who led the study, said that a multi-factorial approach would be needed to combat gender inequities within the profession. Leave availability, role models, reporting mechanisms, support networks and opportunities for females are some of the aspects that need improvement, Dr Liang said.

Ageism Complaints Mostly Related to Work
‘Willing to Work’ inquiry, Marlene Krasovitsky, has said that ‘ageism’ is most apparent in workplace environments. Age-related discrimination complaints are among the lowest of any form of discrimination in Australia. However, over 70% of age-related complaints concern employment. Ms Krasovitsky said that beliefs about older employees being slower or unable to learn were costing both Australia’s economy and mature-aged people’s quality of life. These beliefs mean that older demographics have been pigeon-holed at work and overlooked for promotions. The study found that while unemployment rates are higher for younger people, frictional or transitional unemployment rates are higher among older demographics. Ms Krasovitsky noted that while these challenges are not new, the emergence of technology and increased life expectancy meant that age-related work challenges are being compounded moving into the future.

ABC and Former MD Told to Mediate by Federal Court
The ABC and Michelle Guthrie have been ordered to mediate over the former Managing Director’s unfair dismissal claim. The claim came after Guthrie was fired only half way through her five-year tenure. Attempts to conciliate the matter before the Fair Work Commission failed late last year. The matter then moved to Sydney Circuit Federal Court, where Justice Jagot ordered the parties to commence mediation. The case is set to return to court in April, allowing for a month of discussions between the parties.