ABC staff warned after damning sexual harassment, bullying survey

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The ABC’s CEO has admitted that the broadcaster fails to meet its own standards on bullying and sexual harassment.

The revelation came after an internal survey found that 13 percent of respondents in the news department had experienced sexual harassment in the past two years.

In an address to staff on Wednesday, Anderson said the results of the survey, which were collected in the second half of 2023, were unacceptable.

“If someone doesn’t understand or accept that, then ABC is not the right environment for them to work in,” he told staff in an email, Nine newspapers reported.

“There will be consequences for employees found to be engaging in unacceptable behavior, regardless of their role at ABC.”

The survey, conducted by the Australian National University’s Social Research Centre, found that a quarter of respondents said they had experienced bullying.

The most common forms of bullying include intimidation, denigration and degrading remarks.

Of the 745 participating employees, 97 reported cases of sexual harassment.
The response rate of the survey was 29 percent, with 65 percent of respondents being women.

In a separate email, news director Justin Stevens stressed that such behavior “should not occur” on the country’s public broadcaster, and acknowledged that difficult but necessary discussions would arise.

“For those who behave in this way, it is unacceptable and we will not tolerate it. Anyone who behaves in this way or justifies it in any way is not welcome at the ABC,” he wrote.

The survey came after the broadcaster was embroiled in controversy over the dismissal of replacement presenter Antoinette Lattouf.

This week, the Fair Work Commission ruled that Lattouf was fired from the national broadcaster after she was taken off the air following social media posts about the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Ms Lattouf filed the lawsuit after she was sent home for the final two days of a five-day guest appearance on ABC Radio’s Sydney Mornings program in December last year.

In a ruling released on Monday, the Fair Work Commission found that ABC had terminated her employment, dismissing ABC’s claims to the contrary and opening the door for her to sue the national broadcaster in the Federal Court.

Ms Lattouf was called away for five shifts from Monday 18 December to cover for presenter Sarah Macdonald, but was told not to attend her final shifts on Thursday and Friday of the same week.

She had claimed she was wrongfully fired after sharing a Human Rights Watch post on social media that said: “HRW reports on starvation as a tool of war.

“The Israeli government is using starvation of the civilian population as a weapon of war in the Gaza Strip.”

In submissions to the Fair Work Commission, Ms Lattouf’s lawyer, Mark Gibian SC, argued that “the ABC had expressly terminated Ms Lattouf’s employment” by calling her for a meeting on 20 December and accusing her of breaching the ABC’s social media policies.

During that meeting, Ms. Lattouf claims, she was informed that she would not be working her on-air shifts on Thursday and Friday of that week.

“This is an explicit dismissal which clearly falls within the concept of dismissal at the employer’s initiative,” argued Mr Gibian.

In a letter to ABC management published in the Fair Work Commission’s ruling, Ms Lattouf claimed she had been told “that Jewish lobbyists were not happy about me being on air”.

In a statement, Josh Bornstein, Ms Lattouf’s lawyer at Maurice Blackburn, welcomed the Fair Work Commission’s decision to dismiss ABC’s attempt to dismiss her unfair dismissal claim.

“We will add the wrongful termination claim to the lawsuit currently before the federal court alleging that ABC also violated its collective bargaining agreement by firing Antoinette Lattouf without due process and without reasonable basis,” Bornstein said.

“If the court is satisfied that the ABC has acted illegally, it has wide-ranging powers to make orders, including reinstatement and compensation, as well as the ability to impose penalties.”

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