Justice by due process or public trial?

Douglas Gillanders

Scales of JusticeRecent events in the film production and entertainment industry across the world have been rocked by many allegations of sexual harassment, assault and favouritism. Now in Australia, we have allegations of sexual harassment and sexual advances as in the current media story on the allegations against Craig McLachlan of recent fame in Rocky Horror Picture Show and the Dr. Blake television series.

 Apart from this being a potentially serious breach of the code of conduct we are now seeing the public come onboard expressing their opinions and taking sides. While this is a very emotional issue for those directly involved we need to take stock of what is happening and look at this objectively.

We applaud the women in film and stage production for speaking out when no-one else has appeared to have taken any notice. While the public will be making assumptions in this latest case in Australia, consider this!

  • What are the employers not doing for these allegations to have gone public?
  • Why are people not using the policies and procedures that address bullying, sexual harassment, discrimination and the code of conduct?

These courageous women have spoken out, yet the employer does not appear to have been aware of or have taken any form of action until now when the women have sought external help.

It is difficult for organisations to be seen as being fair in this age of social media, instant information and a wide invisible audience. The ideal process is for an organisation to deal with any breach of the code of conduct matter internally, swiftly, engaging the principles of Natural Justice and to use established policies and procedures. The other challenge to the problem is having reliable, accurately reported information to deal with the matter.

Unfortunately, we the public are only hearing and seeing what is being presented through the media including Facebook.

Bullying in the workplace is a major problem throughout Australia in most industries, whether small, large, not-for-profit, public or private sector. Bullying in the workplace also includes harassment, sexual harassment, intimidation and all forms of discrimination against fellow workers, clients and customers. The law is very clear that repeated instances are to be investigated and measures put in place to cease such negative behaviour. Negative behaviour as defined in the Anti-Bullying Legislation is considered a psychological health risk, this is now enshrined as a work health and safety matter and therefore becomes a duty of care responsibility for all those involved.

The actions of those with sufficient courage to come forward should be recognised as a cry for help where the organisation has either chosen to ignore them or has been ignorant of the situations due to staff underperformance or their failure to report. For the complainants, this creates a fearful environment and a reluctance to come forward for fear of ostracism and ridicule.

The Fair Work Act encourages a more family-friendly and conciliatory approach to employment issues. While this matter has become very public, we trust that the organisations involved will ensure that they follow "due process" which should include a review of what was missing in their procedures to deal with these matters immediately and compassionately. So that any future instances can avoid the hardship, stress and embarrassment now being experienced by those involved. What should have been an internal matter, has now become very public. We trust that the public will look at this situation objectively rather than taking sides and looking just for an individual to blame.

Our sincere empathy goes out to all those involved, this is not a retribution exercise rather it should achieve new standards of respect and promote excellent behaviour and safety in the workplace. We ask those owning and managing businesses reading this post...

  • At what stage are you with your policies and procedures?
  • Do your staff and managers really understand their duty of care in respect to the code of conduct with each other including their clients and customers?
  • What action will you take if this happens to you?

Add a comment

* Comments must be approved before being displayed.