What’s been happening in Australia in relation to workplace sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying from 8-14 June 2015?

Tim Soutphommasane is Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner and on the 11th June, Australia celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Racial Discrimination Act (Federal), the precursor to the Equal Opportunity legislation in the Australian states. In that time the Commission has heard 6000 complaints related to racism and about 20% of people have experienced verbal racial abuse and 5% have experienced physical racial violence.

This anniversary is a reminder of the importance the law has to play in behavioural change but also that it involves everyone making an individual decision about how they treat others.

More than 70% of LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, transgender and Intersex status) people have been attacked, bullied or harassed, says a report by the Australian Human Rights Commission. The report compiled interviews with 1500 people, most of whom have been the victims of some sort of discrimination though not necessarily in the workplace. Western Australia and other states have laws that protect people from being discriminated for any of these reasons, in the workplace and in the provisions of services.

Of those interviewed two thirds felt they could not tell their work colleagues about their sexual orientation.

We still have a long way to go to ensure the legal protection offered to LGBTI people matches up with their own experience.

In an interesting twist of the law, a former magistrate who was sued unsuccessfully by his clerk for sexual harassment is now suing his employer for how they managed the grievance process.

Mr Baldino said he was not informed of the nature of the complaint made by Ms Ramstrom, and if he had been aware he would not have agreed to have Ms Ramstrom continue to work as his clerk. He further claims that the State failed to provide a duty of care because it failed to apply internal policies and protocols, as well as continued to assign Ms Ramstrom to work for him.

Due to the negative publicity, Mr Baldino, suffered a depressive disorder and he is seeking compensation from his now former employer.

This case turns on the responsibilities an employer has to manage a grievance appropriately and ensure all parties, the complainant and the respondent are treated fairly. It will be interesting to see if the employer is liable to the respondent.

Two McDonald’s employees, one of whom was a manager, lost their jobs after making fun of a customer who complained on Facebook about the service she had received. The manager called the customer a ‘low life’ and the other employee told her to ‘go run on a treadmill instead of going through drive through’. The customer had been a regular at that particular restaurant and was frustrated by the service she was receiving.

While the penalty seems harsh, it demonstrates that employees cannot say anything they want on their social media site and where their comments relate to their workplace their employer has the right to control their comments. However an employer does need to ensure they have a social media policy and educate their staff about what they can and can’t say on social media sites.

If you do not have a social media policy for your website then call us at EEO Specialists on (08) 6102 4411 and we can assist you.