In the wake of the David Jones sexual harassment case, all of corporate Australia should be taking a long look at the adequacy of their sexual harassment policies and practices.
Former David Jones Junior Publicist Kristy Fraser-Kirk, who has alleged former David Jones chief Mark McInnes sexually harassed her, has received a confidential payout of around $850K. The payout is one of the biggest in Australian history, and highlights the need for organisations to have robust sexual harassment policies and complaint procedures to protect individuals and organisations. In the dispute, Australia saw how both sides used veteran PR experts to shape media coverage and effectively use the media as a weapon. However, in the final wash up, the cost to both Fraser-Kirk and McKinnes has been huge.
The law says unlawful harassment occurs when:
In the context of sexual harassment, employers need to be aware of their responsibilities to ensure that the working environment or workplace culture is not sexually ‘hostile’.
Sexual harassment can include:
Harassing behaviour can range from serious to less serious levels — however, one-off incidents can still constitute harassment. Also, if behaviour continues, it can undermine the standard of conduct within a work area, which may erode the wellbeing of the person or group being targeted and lead to lower overall staff performance.
In recent years, sexual harassment has spread through sexually suggestive emails and texts so that employees are unable to escape work place sexual harassment or bullying even in their own homes.
Many cases of sexual harassment go unreported because victims:
Workplace bullying in general, including sexual harassment, may cause extensive health problems for employees exposed to this hazard — including physical and psychological illnesses and injuries. Sexual harassment can impact on co-workers, clients, customers, business associates, family and friends. And it impacts on the organisation.
The employee Employees who are sexually harassed may experience some of the following effects:
The organisation Sexual harassment often causes problems for the organisation including: reduced efficiency, unsafe work environment, increased absenteeism, poor morale, increased workers compensation claims and civil action. In the David Jones case, the costs included considerable brand damage and the loss of a CEO who had significantly improved the business and shareholder value.
Many of these costs can be measured in dollars and can significantly impact an organisation’s bottom line in both the short and long term.
There are four best practice principles for managing harassment and bullying:
However, be aware of common pitfalls:
If you would like more information about:
Contact Kim Murrells at Crossroads HR on 9862 5900.
Paul is a Special Counsel in the Maddocks Commercial team with particular expertise in commercial agreements for the supply of goods and/or services, the Personal Property Securities Act 2009, the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009 and the National Credit Code and the Australian Consumer Law.
Paul's key areas of practice include:
Before joining Maddocks, Paul was employed for 13 years with the Victorian Department of Justice, principally as a Deputy Registrar in the Victorian Magistrate's Court, but also as a legislation, policy and project officer for the Department.
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