What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 7 – 13 February 2022

Westpac Manager Fired for Two Second Touch to Female Colleagues Bottom

In a landmark decision by the Fair Work Commission, Deputy President Binet upheld a sacking by Westpac of one of their senior managers, with a 35-year unblemished record, for touching the bottom of a junior female staff member at after work drinks.

CCTV footage show the female colleague touching the man’s arm and back, prior to him touching her bottom, and show her leaning into him after he has touched her bottom. The female colleague made a complaint and the manager was summarily sacked by Westpac and subsequently charged with indecent assault which was later dropped and he was convicted of common assault.

Deputy President Binet made reference to the sacking occurring at the height of the media attention related to Brittany Higgins and that the media coverage and social discourse about consent and physical interactions at work has been “extensive and unavoidable”.

“This has placed those employed in Australian workplaces, including Mr Keron, on notice that their ‘social’ behaviour will attract greater scrutiny and face higher standards than in the past.”

This judgement goes far further, than previous cases as to what is considered reasonable (for dismissal) on multiple grounds including-

1. The behaviour occurred 3 hours after the after work social drinks had finished
2. The actual behaviour was for a 2 second duration on the outside of her clothes in the region of her bottom
3. The complainant’s body language suggested it was consensual
4. The manger had an unblemished record of 35 years

This decision is a warning to employers and employee’s in relation to the court accepting dismissal is a valid outcome for any type of sexualised conduct where physical contact is made and that the element of consent is implied in the negative unless explicitly stated in the positive.

Half Of EY Bullying, Harassment Claims Unsubstantiated

In the last financial year, consulting firm EY had 12 allegations of sexual harassment and bullying within its workplace. Of those, only half have been substantiated. These statistics were published in the firm’s annual “EY Oceania Value Realised Scorecard” last December. The allegations were subject to individual formal workplace investigations during the 2020-2021 financial year. EY has reiterated that it takes all complaints seriously regardless of their severity.

Gay Students Protected, But Trans Students Could Still Be Expelled

The recent amendments to the religious discrimination bill have created protections for gay students. However, transgender students may still risk being expelled for their gender expression and identity. Multiple moderate Liberals have said they do not support the draft amendments. Notably, Tasmanian MP Bridget Archer has promised to cross the floor to oppose the bill. The concern is that the bill will override anti-discrimination laws and promote discrimination of LGBT+ students. The specific provision in question is section 38(3) of the proposed act.

‘An Exceptional Leader of Our Football Club’: Melbourne President Backs Goodwin After Allegations

The president of Melbourne Football Club, Kate Roffey, has spoken out against the bullying allegations involving coach Simon Goodwin. She has backed Mr Goodwin, claiming that he is “an inclusive leader who is loved by the players, coaches and staff”. The bullying allegations were lodged in October of 2020 by a former doctor, Zeeshan Arain. He claimed that Mr Goodwin used “aggressive language and tone” with him. In November 2021, Dr Arain received a six-figure settlement payment. He is also required, as part of the settlement agreement, to cooperate with the investigation board.

Circular 2022/2: Commencement of The Australian Public Service Commissioner’s Directions 2022

On 1 February 2022, the Australian Public Service (APS) Commissioner released a new circular to replace the 2016 Commissioner’s Directions. The new directions require companies to consult the Commissioner prior to entering into a confidentiality agreement with an employee if it relates to sexual harassment. Agencies will also be required to notify the Commissioner when a confidentiality agreement or non-disclosure agreement has been reached relating to sexual harassment. These directions aim to increase accountability within the APS and deter silencing of victims of sexual harassment.

Corporate Giant DP World Accused Of Systemic Workplace Bullying

DP World has been the subject of bullying and sexual harassment complaints within its Australian branches. The company operates ports in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Fremantle. Five dock workers have received more than $3 million after their claims of assault and harassment have been substantiated. Other allegations reveal that employees who report bullying are then demoted to less desirable positions and receive worse working hours. Specific incidents included an employee having his shoes urinated in, and a woman was physically assaulted for agreeing to be a witness in a sexual harassment claim.

‘You’re My Pet’: Sexual Harassment Claim Against Ex-One Nation Senator

Former One Nation senator, Brian Burston, has been accused of sexual harassment by his former staffer. The former employee, Wendy Leach, claims that the Senator did not want anyone to know that she was his “pet.” The claim has been made to the Federal Court. Ms Leach worked for Mr Buston until she was dismissed in 2018. She was his electoral officer while he was a sitting senator. The formal claim is that Mr Burston discriminated against her on the grounds of sex. Ms Leach alleges that he made unwelcome sexual advances towards her. The case management hearing is due to commence on February 18.