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

One off Drunkenness at After Work Function Not Valid Grounds for Dismissal
A Sydney Opera House (SOH) contractor has won an unfair dismissal case against her former employer, Ryan Wilkes Pty Ltd. In August 2018, the contractor was fired for getting drunk and vomiting at an after-work drinks event held at the Sydney Opera House. It was alleged that there the contractor also made sexual propositions to some of her colleagues. This included inviting a SOH Manager to “take advantage” of her. In ruling in favour of the employee, Fair Work Commissioner Ian Cambridge said that “if one act of inoffensive drunkenness at an after-work function provided valid reason for dismissal, I suspect that the majority of Australian workers may have potentially lost their jobs”. The Commissioner said, “a single act of drunkenness at an after-work function which did not involve any abusive or aggressive behaviour, and for which no serious risk to the reputation or viability of the employer’s business could be established, would not represent misconduct that provided a sound, defensible and well-founded reason for dismissal”. The Commission found that the dismissal was unfair and ordered for the employee’s reinstatement.

ABC Private Settlement Now Public-$730,000 Settlement

Michelle Guthrie has received a $730,000 settlement payment over her unfair dismissal claim against the ABC. During the parties recent settlement, Ms Guthrie agreed to drop court action against the public broadcaster and discontinue her bid to be reinstated as Managing Director. Though the ABC and Ms Guthrie stated that the settlement would remain confidential, details of the agreement have been disclosed by the ABC’s acting Managing Director, David Anderson. This week, Mr Anderson told a Senate Parliamentary Committee that “the parties had started a long way apart” in their negotiations. Ms Guthrie sought either reinstatement as Managing Director or payment for the remaining 30 months on her $900,000-a-year contract. Mr Anderson said the decision to settle was in the best interests of the taxpayer-funded broadcaster. This was particularly as the potential costs of a full trial ranged from $1 million to $2 million.

More Criticism of Japanese Retailer Uniqlo for Toxic Abusive Culture
More Uniqlo employees have come forward about the company’s toxic organisational culture. Several ex-employees across Australia have banded together to shed light on the Japanese retailer’s “awful” and “abusive” working environment. A 27-year-old Assistant Manager, who worked in the Sydney CBD store, went as far as saying that “everybody leaves with some form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder”. The Assistant Manager detailed how the “managers would just scream at people non-stop for no reason” and that “a lot of [people] went home crying”. A 35-year-old Visual Merchandiser, who worked in the Queensland store for 18 months before being bullied out of the position, lamented that “people would go to HR (about bullying) and no one would do anything”. This isn’t the first time Uniqlo has come under staunch criticism for its working conditions. Just one-month ago, former Uniqlo HR Manager, Melanie Bell, launched an explosive $1 million discrimination claim against the company. Uniqlo has since released a statement affirming its commitment to employee health, safety and wellbeing; however, criticism against the retailer has continued to mount.

70% of Surveyed NSW Female Lawyers Have Experienced Sexual Harassment
A report conducted by the Women’s Lawyers Association of NSW (WLANSW Report) has revealed that over 70% of female practitioners have experienced sexual harassment within the profession. The report, which surveyed over 242 female lawyers, found that under-reporting of harassment was a big issue. The report found that only 18% of potential complainants spoke up to their employer. This would prove particularly difficult for the 50% of practitioner’s who reported their manager as the harasser. The biggest take away from the report was that women were not reporting sexual harassment because they feared it would impact their career. Practitioner’s ‘reporting’ concerns were compounded by the fact that more than 50% of potential complainants were not confident their employer would deal with their concern in a confidential and impartial manner. The WLANSW Report has formed part of its submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in the Workplace. The results from the National Inquiry are set to be released later this year.