What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 5 – 11 November 2018

FWC Says ‘Not Satisfied’ of Sexual Harassment Claim
The Fair Work Commission has rejected that a Mining One engineer resigned over sexual harassment. Ms Kurucuk worked as a geotechnical engineer under a supervisor, whom she claimed developed unreciprocated romantic feelings for her. When she told him his romantic behaviour was unwelcome he apologised, however the pair found themselves in “robust and often confrontational exchanges” at work. Ms Kurucuk says that her supervisor’s “inappropriate and unwelcome advances” and the company’s refusal to continue to investigate her claims were what prompted her resignation. However, the Commission was “not satisfied” his behaviour was harassment and held it was more likely that she left after taking up a job offer from a university.

AIS Starting Talent Program for Female Coaches and Sport Executives
The Australian Institute of Sport is starting a talent program for female sport executives and coaches to help rectify their underrepresentation. Only 13% of chief executives and 15% of high-performance coach positions in the sporting industry are held by women, statistics which are “not acceptable” according to Sport Australia chief executive Kate Palmer. The talent program will see women immerse themselves in an environment to prepare their leadership skills for one year. There are 16 positions open for the executive roles and 16 for the high-performance coaches.

Hayne Bank Royal Commission Releases Sexual Harassment Claims
The Hayne banking royal commission has seen financial institutions publish hundreds of documents detailing misconduct from the past 10 years. The 200 documents, which were published at Hayne’s request, detail not only fraud, overcharging and theft but also disturbing cases of workplace assault and sexual harassment. Aussie Home Loans, the mortgage broker owned by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, was one institution whose workplace was implicated in sexual harassment claims. The document-dump took place only hours following the Commonwealth Bank’s and Westpac’s chairwomen apologising to their shareholders in an attempt to rebuild some trust in the industry.

Age Discrimination Prevalent in Workplaces
A report by the Australian Human Rights Commission has revealed the extent of workplace age discrimination. The ‘Employing Older Workers’ report indicated that nearly one third of employers have age specifications in their job applications, despite it being illegal to discriminate on the basis of age. Moreover, 30% claimed they would not employ people over 50 years of age. Notwithstanding, two thirds of these same employers stated that not employing older people was costing their business valuable skills and knowledge. Ian Yates, the CEO of the Council of the Ageing, said that this age-based discrimination was pushing older people to “haemorrhage” their savings before reaching retirement. He hoped that these statistics would encourage the government to increase workplace participation by incentivising employment, bolstering retraining programs and promoting flexibility.

Increase in Bullying of Junior Doctors in NSW
A survey of junior doctors currently undergoing training in NSW has suggested a pervasive cultural problem of workplace bullying. The 2018 Hospital Health Check surveyed 1351 doctors-in-training in the state, with 42% reporting having been bullied, discriminated against or harassed in the workplace. Westmead Hospital, whose ICU department was only recently deprived of its accreditation, was one of two public hospitals to receive an ‘F’ grade for ‘Wellbeing’. More than half of Westmead’s doctors-in-training had been the victim of bullying, discrimination or harassment. Wollongong Hospital received the same failing grade in the category, which encompasses hospital responses to inappropriate behaviour. This comes in addition to the 19 other hospitals that received a ‘D’ grade for ‘Wellbeing’. In 2017, no hospital received an ‘F’ and the lowest mark was a ‘C’, which indicates junior doctors’ experiences have deteriorated dramatically over one year.

NSW Opposition Leader Resigns Amidst Allegations of Sexually Harassing a Reporter
The NSW opposition leader has resigned amid allegations he sexually harassed a reporter. ABC journalist Ashleigh Raper alleges that Luke Foley groped her at a 2016 Christmas function attended by other reporters and political staffers, which she says was witnessed by Sean Nicholls, an ABC colleague. Ms Raper’s allegations first emerged, albeit anonymously, when the NSW Corrections Minister David Elliott accused Mr Foley of sexually harassing an ABC reporter. Mr Foley denies the allegations. However, Ms Raper claims she spoke to Mr Foley over the phone, during which time she claims he apologised for being a “drunk idiot”.

Nation Wide Problem of Bullying in Health System
An article published in the Medical Journal of Australia has highlighted a severe nation-wide problem of bullying in the health system. The article, ‘Endemic unprofessional behaviour in health care: the mandate for a change in approach’, considered the problem to have become so pervasive and severe as to be endemic. It found that between 25% and 50% of staff had been victims of discrimination, bullying or sexual harassment in the workplace. It noted that given the tendency to underreport, the figures were likely to be higher. Neroli Sunderland, one of the article’s authors, noted that bullying is a problem because “there’s a bigger risk of anxiety and having difficulty concentrating” among staff, and this simultaneously risks patient health. The conclusions come as a spate of NSW hospitals in particular have been thrust into the spotlight for their own poor workplace cultures.