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HOW TO AVOID A SEXUAL HARASSMENT CLAIM TURNING INTO A (ROCKY) HORROR SHOW

There’s been a lot of media attention recently on sexual harassment cases in the celebrity world. Potentially spurred on by the Harvey Weinstein #metoo movement, people are speaking up for their rights in the workplace.

We have seen flow on effects here in Australia with allegations against TV’s famous gardener Don Burke, and now allegations of sexual misconduct against Craig McLachlan in the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Both of these Australian cases are now being investigated and although its premature to cast any judgment on whether the conduct occurred or not, it’s so disappointing that people are exposed to these abuses of power in the workplace. We need to remember that “showbiz” is still a workplace and people have the right to go to work and feel safe to do their jobs.

An excerpt from The Age said, “Before Christmas, the women went to the union, lawyers and police. While they were not identified, their lawyers outlined their allegations to GFO (the production company) and asked that as a matter of urgency, as McLachlan’s reprisal of the role was opening in Adelaide on New Year’s Eve, that they investigate their concerns.
GFO’s lawyers responded by saying: “Your clients, by instructing your firm to send a letter alleging serious unlawful conduct (without any evidence to support such allegations), may have made defamatory statements regarding GFO, members of its management and also Mr McLachlan. Our client reserves all its rights in respect of that issue.” http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/hes-calculated-and-manipulative-a-predator-craig-mclachlan-accused-of-indecent-assault-20180107-h0enst

The accusers of Craig McLachlan allege that their complaints fell on deaf ears. Whether your employees are gold Logie winner headline acts, or well-paid CEO’s, or just employees that do a great job; there is an appropriate way to handle allegations of sexual harassment and bullying and harassment.

Organisations have a legal responsibility to deal with sexual harassment. If a Company does not take action and turns a blind eye, it can lead to complaints to government authorities such as the Human Rights Commission or the police and it could also lead to penalties under Health and Safety legislation and leave companies liable for damages incurred by their employees. In Victoria, maximum penalties under the OHS legislation is over $3 million for corporations and $285,426 for individuals.

Our essential guidelines to follow if you are presented with serious allegations in your workplace are:

  • Have a grievance procedure/policy clearly documented that you follow every time
  • Ensure you address complaints in a timely, fair and confidential manner
  • Ensure your team handling the complaint are trained in doing so
  • Provide clear guidance on your internal investigation procedures and record keeping
  • Inform employees that nobody will be disadvantaged or victimised for making a complain

Hopefully, you won’t ever have to investigate sexual harassment cases, but with increased media attention, inevitably more people gain the confidence to stand up for their rights, so we do anticipate a rise in allegations over the coming months. It is always best practice to be prepared with adequate processes and policies in place.

Written by Resident HR Guru – Jessy Warn.

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