What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 8 May 2023 – 14 May 2023

Former Chief Staffer Sally Rugg Settles Lawsuit Against Monique Ryan

Former Chief of Staff Sally Rugg has agreed to a $100,000 settlement in relation to her lawsuit against MP Monique Ryan. The settlement includes no admission by Ryan or by the federal government. The case commenced this year in the federal court by Sally Rugg, who alleged that she had been required to work “unreasonable” hours and that the Commonwealth had taken “adverse action” in relation to her dismissal. According to the article, Ms Rugg and Ms Ryan’s relationship had broken down in relation to work hours and the decision of Ms Rugg to “self-isolate” at home due to COVID-19. Additionally, Ms Rugg added that the commonwealth government had committed a “serious contravention” by the “’systematic’ breach of labour standards.” Further, the recent Set the Standard report by former Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins had stated that “staffers working excessive hours was an important factor in an unsafe workplace.” Ms Rugg reportedly worked an average of 58 hours per week and had worked over 65 hours from July to December.

Australian Capital Territory Prosecutor Gives Evidence in Lehrmann Rape Trial Inquiry

The inquiry into the Bruce Lehrmann rape trial commenced this week, with the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions, Shane Drumgold, providing evidence to the Board of Inquiry. The inquiry involves an examination into how the Brittany Higgins’ case was handled by criminal justice departments, including both police and prosecutors. According to the article, Mr Drumgold was examined on Monday this week and asked about whether he had attempted to prevent a report by the AFP to Detective Superintendent Scott Moller. The report raised concerns about the credibility of Ms Higgins, stating that Ms Higgins was “evasive, uncooperative and manipulative” and that “investigators have serious concerns in relation to the strength and reliability of her evidence.” In response, Mr Drumgold stated that the report had “contained irrelevant material” and presented a “basic, misguided analysis of the importance of certain evidence and opinions on credibility based on admissible evidence.” Further, Mr Drumgold gave evidence in relation to a brief provided to the defence, which contained confidential notes of Ms Higgin’s counselling sessions. Drumgold admitted he had read these notes, conceding that it was a police “mess-up”, however it was not done deliberately.

Former AFL Umpire Libby Toovey Commences Legal Action Over Abuse Claims

Former AFL umpire Libby Toovey is set to have her case heard by the Fair Work Commission following mediation with the AFL this week. Ms Toovey is alleging that she was terminated from her role only 5 weeks after her commencement due to uncovering “abuse of fellow female umpires.” According to the article, Ms Toovey was dismissed after she had brought cases of abuse to upper management. Further, the articles states that there were “at least three cases of abuse towards female umpires” that were currently being “investigated by the AFL’s integrity unit.” Ms Toovey stated in an Instagram post that the alleged abuse female umpires suffered from included sexual assault, harassment, grooming as well as assault. The AFL released a statement to say that Ms Toovey had been dismissed due to “serious concerns regarding her conduct” and that while the AFL prioritises employee safety within the workplace, it also takes seriously “each employee’s right to privacy and right to their personal information not being shared without their permission.” The alleged misconduct of Ms Toovey involved the misrepresentation of her role’s responsibilities to internal and external stakeholders.

Court Services Victoria Report Finds Approximately 1 in 4 Staff Sexually Harassed at Work

A report released by Court Services Victoria has found that 22% of individuals who had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace had reported the incident. Further, only 27% of those who had witnessed or viewed the harassment had reported the incident to a relevant source. Reasons for not reporting the incidents included that “it was easier to keep quiet”, that “others would think I was over-reacting” and that it “was a minor incident.” In response to the report, Supreme Court Chief Justice Ferguson stated that “sexual harassment is harmful, unlawful and wrong” and that the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal would not “put up with any form of wrongful conduct” within the courts, as well as other supportive branches. According to the article, participation in the survey was low, with only 686 individuals (approximately 23% of employees within the Victorian courts, Court Services and VCAT) responding. The survey was conducted in August of 2022 and follows from a 2019 survey commissioned by the Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner, which found that “36% of women working in law had experienced sexual harassment.”