What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 4 September 2023 – 10 September 2023

WA Statistics Related to Sexual Harassment Complaints

In the 2022-23 reporting year the Commission received 31 complaints of sexual harassment in employment, 24 of those were from women.
In the complaints received, women told of constant sexualised comments, supervisors trying to kiss them at work functions and receiving a sexualised Secret Santa gift from a colleague. Male complainants raised similar issues though the alleged harassers were predominantly males.
Outcomes of complaints vary. Some resolved with monetary payments to the complainant of up to $52,000, others were resolved when the complainant withdrew the complaint.
However, a common thread in the allegations was that employers responded poorly to the issues raised with them by employees.
Complainants mentioned unsatisfactory investigations, employers not taking all reasonable steps to stop the harassing behaviour after the issue was raised, being ignored, and in some cases being bullied for raising the issue.
Many complainants stated they felt so unsafe they had to leave their place of employment.
Holding staff training sessions where these issues can be discussed in an open, safe, and educative environment can assist workplaces to gain a better understanding of how behaviours might be perceived, regardless of how they were intended.
Such sessions can also assist in preventing more serious behaviours from developing and creating workplace cultures where employees feel not only uncomfortable, but unsafe.

Qantas Accused of Being a ‘Bully’ to Smaller Aviation Players

Qantas has been accused this week of ‘bullying’ smaller aviation companies. The company additionally has received questioning in relation to the outgoing chief executive, Alan Joyce. It is alleged, Qantas (in combination with Jetstar) acts like a “bully” when exercising 65% of the domestic aviation space. In particular, the company has faced recent criticism for ‘bully’ the smaller aviation company, Rex. John Sharp, a former federal transport minister from the Howard government, stated that “Rex’s relationship with a company like Qantas is a bit like an ant dancing with an elephant. You’ve only got to make one misstep and you’re squashed.” Further, Sharp stated that Qantas has “moved into a number of routes in order to try and punish us for going into the domestic airline business to try and undermine our finances so that we’re weak and therefore can’t compete.” Qantas reportedly has created a reputation of a “tough negotiator” in relation to airport fees for landing rights. Further, Rex reported Qantas’ conduct to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, however no action was taken against the company. Qantas has denied the claims in the past, stating that Rex’s complaints “never had any substance.” QantasLink’s chief executive John Gissing stated last year that “what Rex calls ‘predatory behaviour’ is actually competition which provides these regional communities with choice.” Sharp stated that the legal action announced against Qantas last week would “reveal a lot of information.” Further, he said that “I think off the back of that there’s going to be a lot of practices that are seen as anti-competitive.”

Phase 1 of the New Reforms to the Discrimination Act in Northern Territory Commence

The Northern Territory Anti-Discrimination Commission announced this week that phase 1 of the new reforms to the Anti-Discrimination Act 1992 have now commenced. It states that the new reforms provide increased protection for vulnerable groups, including “language, gender identity, sex characteristics, accommodation status, employment status, employment in sex work or engaging in sex work including past employment, HIV/Hepatitis and domestic violence.” Further, the new reforms provide protections to those who are involved in volunteer work, employed in childcare or in the administration of law and government programs. The new reforms provide that “a person must not do an act that is reasonably likely, in all of the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimate another person or a group of people.” The statement additionally reads that “the act is done because of an attribute of the other person or some or all of the people in the group.” The exemptions established by the reforms include “conduct such as artistic work, fair and accurate reporting if an event or matter of public interest.” The statement reads that sexual harassment is not confined to workplaces, which ultimately allows individuals to “speak up” and make complaints about sexual harassment “without the legal barriers that have existed previously.”

Sexual Harassment Remains Despite BHP Spending $300 Million on Women’s Safety

The chief executive of BHP, Mike Henry, stated this week that the company has “some ways to go” in creating a safe workplace for women. According to the article, the company spent $300 million in completing a project to make mining villages safer for women by implementing CCTV cameras, security lighting and doors and fences. The number of reported cases for sexual harassment increased from 103 in 2022 to 124 this year, resulting in a 20% increase. Further, approximately one quarter of the 475 harassment reports were substantiated. Mr Henry stated that “there’s unacceptable behaviour that continues to happen inside our company.” Further, he said that “it does require culture and capability shift and that’s something we’ve been investing a lot of time and effort in.” 165 of the perpetrators involved in the 167 substantiated cases from last year were either dismissed, removed from the mine site if they were a contractor, or resigned. Mr Henry stated that “we won’t be satisfied until this behaviour has disappeared from BHP, just like other safety-related incidents.” The Australian mining sector has faced intense scrutiny after a Western Australian inquiry found “horrific” incidents that had occurred at remote projects. According to the article, Mr Henry state that the instances of sexual harassment demonstrated a shift in the culture at the mine sites, where the number of female employees has doubled to 35.2% since 2016 after it set a gender parity target.

Marist College Teacher Takes Unfair Dismissal Case to Fair Work Commission

A Brisbane teacher has sued his former workplace, Marist College Ashgrove, for unfair dismissal after he was terminated for criticising “the big end of town.” Stanislaw Kosiek was dismissed after he had selected the ‘reply all’ feature in an email. Mr Kosiek had been employed by the school for a period of 22 years prior to his termination. According to the article, Mr Kosiek intended to send an email to his union representative, Madonna Spillane. However, instead of choosing the reply function, he selected ‘reply all.’ In the email sent by Stan Kosiek, he said that he remembered a time when issues “were resolved calmly, professionally and successfully.” Further, Mr Kosiek allegedly stated that those fixing the IT issues were “not cutting the mustard.” He said that “we have amazing IT staff but recently the big end of town (need to) stop feeding at the pool tuck shop and live up to their $250,000 job!” Mr Kosiek met with the Head of College, Michael Newman, who stated that the email had caused “great upset” and that it “may amount to a breach of our Code of Conduct and a breach of employee privacy” as well as “serious misconduct or bullying.” Mr Kosiek was stood down during this meeting. Additionally, Mr Kosiek used his sick leave instead of his long service leave after he had provided a medical certificate. After Mr Kosiek returned, he was informed that “significant concerns” arose from his position. According to the article, Mr Kosiek provided an apology to the teacher directly rather than sending it through an intermediary. Mr Kosiek was then stood down again from his role, before being terminated. A Federal Court judge has ordered that Mr Kosiek’s case go to trial, where he seeks re-employment, compensation and penalties.