I recall when I worked for the Catholic Church, how the powers that be there decided that they did not like a particular female colleague, presumably on the basis that she was not appropriately ‘conservative’. One Christmas time, during the odiously fake Kris Kringle sharing of presents, that cruelly targeted employee opened her present to reveal a tawdry g-string. The strangled chuckles in the boardroom could barely contain what had been a deliberate and hurtful ploy to embarrass this worker, in a workplace that ostensibly exists outside of Australia’s pissweak legislative protections against sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying. Up until recently, even women and in some cases men in more ‘protected’ workplaces were helpless prey for almost any extreme of lewd and offensive behaviour. That is, up until an aggrieved worker at the David Jones department store not only said ‘no more’ but ‘$37 million dollars, please’.
The sheer gall of this aggrieved worker in demanding punitive damages for sexual harassment and associated matters in a country where punitive damages are rarely sought let alone awarded, has unleashed a torrent of lunatic misogynists who decry her right to a safe workplace. What this trailer-trash saga says to me is that it continues to be the ‘Australian way’ that women who are sexually harassed at work should shut up and cop it sweet. Moreover, the worst thing that any woman can do when subjected to such predatory behaviours is to sing like a canary and ask for a bucket of cash, besides. That there are scant legal protections for women so harassed in Australia is amply described in this article where, for example, even the nation’s supposed human rights vanguard, the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) (incorrectly referred to in this article by its old name, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission), operates with the primary purpose of shutting complainants down…
- Sexual harassment is strictly defined by the AHRC;
- The complaints resolution process can take many months;
- The AHRC compels concilation upon complainants; and
- Progressing to the Federal Court is cost prohibitive.
In brief, the AHRC plays a strategic blocking role in sexual harassment complaints while pretending to give the impression that it is the fair and impartial arbiter.
All I can say is that we all benefit when women do indeed stand up and sing like canaries in the face of predatory behaviours from sleazy male colleagues in the workplace…
Reprinted with permission from Strong Silent Types - Stuff About Men.