What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 8 – 14 October 2018

65% of Cabin Crew Surveyed Say they Have been Harassed at Work
A survey by the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) has revealed that the majority of cabin crew workers have been harassed at work. The inquiry surveyed 419 staff members with Australian airlines, Qantas, Virgin, Jetstar and Tigerair. Alarmingly, 65% of respondents, who make up approximately 5% of all Australia cabin crew, had been harassed. They reported serious sexual assault, groping, abuse over sexual orientation and sexualised comments. Moreover, half of those victims claimed to have been harassed more than four times. Hannah Rowlands, who quit as a flight attendant after her manager sexually assaulted her, was not surprised by the results. She stated that a big problem was that cabin crew “all work[ed] in such close proximity to each other”. The TWU National Secretary, Michael Kaine, said the results make “clear that a culture exists at airlines to at best ignore the problem and at worst protect the perpetrators”. He further suggested that airline hierarchies and strict dress codes exacerbated the problem.

Allegations of Toxic Work Culture at Purple Bricks from Previous Employee
A former real estate agent of Purplebricks has spoken about the impact of its toxic culture on employees. According to Geoffrey Duncan, Purplebricks is a “sweatshop” where workers are bullied and harassed. This culture has led to many of its real estate agents leaving in an “exodus”, with only three of the nine people who trained with Mr Duncan remaining after one year. Indeed, in the whole of Australia, agent numbers have fallen from 105 to 82 in the past year. After posting about his negative experiences with Purplebricks, Mr Duncan claims to have been harassed and ridiculed by employees. Moreover, working there caused him to have a breakdown, and led to his being admitted to hospital. He was dismissed shortly after. This does not appear to be a one-off, with other employees claiming to also have been dismissed without prior notice.

Gender Discrimination at Rail Safe Vic.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) has compensated an employee for discrimination on the basis of her sex. The woman, identified as XVC, was sent to work at Rail Safe Working Solutions’ Clayton Road site by Marriott Support Services, as part of a disability employment project. She alleges that one of her colleagues – a man identified as YLH – made sexual comments to her and intimidated her. According to XVC, he said, “I could ride that all the way home” in relation to a woman he saw wearing a sheer blouse. With regards to another female pedestrian, he said suggestively, “it’s a hard job all day long if you get what I mean”. Marriott Support Services allegedly dismissed XVC’s concerns and discouraged her from making a formal complaint, out of fear that it could put the “whole disability project at risk”. XVC claims that staff told her, “You are working in a man’s working environment and you need to expect that kind of unwanted attention”. Bernadette Steele, a senior VCAT member, held that Marriott Support Services had treated her unfavourably as a result of her sex.

Former CSIRO Scientist Suing Employer for Sexual Harassment
A scientist is pursuing a claim in the Federal Court against their former employer, CSIRO, for unfair dismissal. Katherine Morton alleges that prior to being made redundant in 2016, she was sexually harassed and discriminated against on the basis of her sex by co-workers. Ms Morton claims that she was called a “hussy”, asked whether she was a prostitute and received comments about her cleavage. She also says that her supervisor, Dr Brett Glencross, used a riding crop to hit her on the buttocks in 2012. After making a complaint to the CSIRO and filing for workers’ compensation, Ms Morton alleges to have been systematically punished, which caused her to feel stressed and to develop a major depressive disorder. Counsel for CSIRO has defended the actions of Dr Glencross as being something in which the colleagues engaged in a “playful way”.

Independent Report Makes Recommendations About Religious Schools and Their Right to Discriminate Based on Sexual Orientation
Recommendations from the Ruddock report on religious freedom would grant religious schools the right to reject gay teachers. The report, commissioned after the successful legislating of same-sex marriage, suggests amending the federal Discrimination Act. This would entail permitting religious schools to discriminate against students and have more discretion in hiring teachers on grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and relationship. Some but not all State legislation already permit a similar degree of discrimination. However, the report qualified that the “key to the maintenance of existing exceptions (to discrimination law) is clarity and transparency”. In light of this, any schools would need to provide a policy outlining its position to the public. Scott Morrison has made a statement that the report is the product of community input, being an “independent report to [and not from] government”.

Launch of EveryAGe Campaign to Promote Age Equality
More than 20 organisations around Australia have formed a movement to bring an end to age discrimination. Commonwealth Age Discrimination Commissioner Dr Kay Patterson launched their campaign, entitled EveryAGE Counts, this week. Dr Patterson explained that two thirds of age discrimination complaints related to the workplace. On this point, she said there was “an enormous opportunity” and that it was important to “challenge every person and organisation to think about the implications this has for them”.