What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 8 April 2019 – 14 April 2019

Court Finds in Favour of Rush’s Defamation Action
The Federal Court (in the case of Rush v Nationwide News Pty Ltd (No 7) [2019] FCA 496) has found in favour of Geoffrey Rush and awarded the defamed actor at least $850,000 in damages. The defamation proceedings were brought against Nationwide News (owner of the Daily Telegraph) and the author of the newspaper articles, Mr Moran, after they published comments from former co-star, Eryn Jean Norvill, after she alleged that Rush engaged in inappropriate touching. The paper argued the ‘truth defence’ to the defamation claim saying that what they published was true. The Federal Court judge found Ms Norvill to not be a credible witness and where there was a difference in the evidence presented by her and Mr Rush and his witnesses the judge favoured that of Mr Rush and his witnesses. The judge was not satisfied that any of the allegations of sexual harassment had occurred and therefore the truth defence failed for the Daily Telegraph. The decision has attracted criticism for its evidentiary findings and the way it painted sexual harassment claims against the actor. Commentators have criticised Justice Wigney’s judgment, saying that it fundamentally misunderstood the power imbalance that existed between Rush and Norvill and the consequence of this imbalance to the way she acted during and after the play.

75% of People Surveyed Considered their Boss Toxic
A 2018 survey found that over 75% of respondent employees considered their boss to be ‘toxic’. According to Human Resources Director (HRD), it’s important to distinguish between a tough boss and a toxic boss. This is because the differences aren’t always so clear, and the managerial styles can sometimes overlap. Clinical psychologist, Alan Cavaiola, said that “bosses who are tough are still supportive and take their mentoring role seriously. They tend to be conscientious in explaining what needs to be done, how it needs to be done and why.” Whereas “a toxic boss might lay out similar expectations, but they dismiss the efforts of their workers and ignore the challenges they face along the way. It matters little to them if a worker is stressed or overworked. In short, a toxic boss only looks out for themselves”. According to HRD, toxic bosses also tend to micromanage, whereas tough bosses feel more “comfortable relinquishing control”. Micromanaging occurs because the boss “not only distrust their systems and processes; they also lack confidence in the ability of other people”. In standing up to a toxic boss, HDR said that it’s important for employees to know their rights, document questionable interactions and speak up when they can.

Survey of 1000 People Show Higher Rates of Bullying in Minority Groups
The 2018/19 Hays “Diversity and Inclusion Report” has found that “45% of Australian professionals have experienced bullying or harassment at work due to their gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation or disability”. The report, which surveyed over 1,000 Australian and New Zealanders, found that rates of bullying were higher amongst minority groups. For example, bullying figures rose to: 64% for those living with a disclosed disability, 58% for those identifying as LGBTIQ+, 50% for women and 50% for those identifying as “mature workers”. In terms of responses to bullying behaviour, 41% of respondents reported having taken no steps at all. 15% chose to leave the organisation instead of reporting the bullying behaviour. The report suggested that employers should tackle bullying “becoming aware of anti-bullying laws and following the correct procedures available to them”.

Wallabies Star Likely to be Sacked Due to Homophobic Comments Made on Religious Grounds
Rugby Australia has threatened to sack Wallabies star, Israel Folau, over the player’s homophobic comments. The controversy erupted after Folau wrote to social media saying, “hell waits for drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolators unless they repent”. This is not the first time Folau has made a religiously charged remark about the LGBTQI+ community. Since the incident, Rugby Australia’s Chief Executive, Raelene Castle, released a statement which said, “it is our intention to terminate [Mr Folau’s] contract”. Legal academics have said that if Rugby Australia goes through with the dismissal, Mr Folau could contest it on the grounds of religious discrimination. Mark Fowler, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame, said that the rugby star could be protected by provisions under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). Despite these claims, Rugby Australia has stood by its threatened dismissal, stating that while Folau was “entitled to his religious beliefs”, his comments were “inconsistent with the values of the sport”.