What’s been happening in Australia in relation to workplace sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying from 6-12th July 2015?

A former environment and safety manager lost his unfair dismissal claim for a second time. Mr Harvey was dismissed for multiple reasons namely- deteriorating work relationships, together with a haphazard approach to working hours, as well as using office time to work on a personal legal matter and sending threatening and abusive messages from a LinkedIn account that bore his position title and organisation name.

While one of these may have been less relevant, namely the deterioration in work relationships, the others as a totality constituted a valid collective reason for dismissing him.

A blind woman is suing the ABC for failing to provide audio description as part of regular TV programming. Audio description is a second audio track that can be turned on and off and describes the visual elements of a TV program. Ms Hudson will argue that this is a form of indirect discrimination as it is a practice, ie to not offer audio description, that is unreasonable and impacts negatively on a protected category of people (those with a visual disability). The provision of services, like employment have the same discrimination protections for people. The question to be argued in this case will turn on whether it is unreasonable that ABC do not offer audio description.

Other countries, such as the UK, US, Ireland, Germany and Spain are more advanced than Australia in offering this service for visually impaired people.

Mr Anforth, a member of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal found against the government, at an interim hearing, in a case brought by a Chinese trained doctor alleging he had been discriminated against when he was denied a 12-month intern placement. The ACT Government has a policy of preferring Australian trained doctors. The ACT Government had overheard a conversation between Mr Anforth and another about workplace race and gender issues and then decided he was biased in his ability to make a final decision and he should therefore remove himself from the case. He rejected the allegation saying he held a view that gender and race discrimination exist generally in the community, but not that it was widespread in the medical profession.

Sounds like the government is trying to shut Mr Anforth down from doing his job. If his decision is biased then there is an appeal process the government can go through but preventing him from making a decision in the first place sounds like the government is attempting to interfere in the court system.

Lorna Jane pulled a job advertisement that specified the applicant ‘must’ have a specific body size, including a bust of 87-90cm, a waist of 70-73cm and height of at least 165cm. The position included both modelling and secretarial tasks. The applicant must also be able to stand for long periods of time and did not need any experience. After the job advertisement was removed a spokesperson said this was due to overwhelming number of interested applicants.

There’s been a bit of whoha over this one. Has LJ really done anything wrong? If you separate the two job descriptions then no. Here’s why.

In Australia currently it is okay to employ someone based on how they look. Apart from Victoria, where you can’t discriminate against someone based on their physical appearance, every other state in Australia you can. Most people don’t know this!

Having said that, even in Victoria if you could show that the body measurements requested was an inherent requirement of the job, that is, we need someone with this body shape because they are trying on and giving feedback to clothes that come in this size then you could argue it is okay for LJ to specify the body measurements. So I think the ad for the model is okay.

Let’s have a look at the ad for the secretary. Again as a stand-alone ad for a secretary it is okay.

The problem when the ads are combined into one role is that it is potentially indirect discrimination in relation to gender, specifically men. Here is why-although the secretarial work could be done by a man or a woman, because the ad is combined with the modelling bit, it excluded men from applying because they don’t fit the body shape requested. This is where indirect discrimination comes is as it occurs when there is a rule, practice or procedure that on the surface appears neutral but has a negative impact on one of the protected categories (in this case men) and the rule is deemed to be unreasonable and the group (men) cannot comply with it.

It would have been better for LJ to advertise the job as 2 part-time positions, thereby not excluding men from applying for the secretarial role.

If you think your staff are unsure of how discrimination can play out in your workplace then contact Franca at EEO Specialists on (08) 6102 4411 to discuss training options.