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“Sextortion” – an overlooked form of corruption

There are many form of harassment in the workplace, sextortion is just one example

When we think of “corruption”, we tend to think of the provision of monetary bribes. But as the 16th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) has highlighted, corruption comes in many forms. One such form is the abuse of official power to extort sexual favours, or “sextortion”.

According to Interpol, there are hundreds of thousands of victims of sextortion around the world. But because there is often a lack of hard evidence and victims are too ashamed to come forward, incidents remain grossly underreported and corruption prosecutions for these practices are rare.

Mainstream anti-corruption movements tend to overlook it, despite victims of sextortion often suffering greater adverse effects than those of financial corruption. These effects include physical violence, a violation of human rights, social ostracisation and the possibility of pregnancy or disease.

Sextortion can be explicit or implicit, and often overlaps with sexual harassment. The spectrum of the nature of the extortion in reported cases ranges from the threat of withholding basic nutrient supplements by NGO workers in West Africa to promises of career advancement or good grades in first world workplaces and universities. A recent survey commissioned by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons revealed first-hand stories of junior surgical staff being expected to provide sexual favours to senior surgeons in exchange for tutorship.

A 2014 study by the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ) and the Thomson Reuters Foundation of nine jurisdictions, including Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, Uganda and Argentina, found that none of the countries had laws explicitly addressing sextortion.

Nancy Hendry, senior advisor at the IAWJ, told delegates at the IACC, “People tend to dismiss [sextortion], partly because it is seen as part of life. But it shouldn’t be, just like sexual harassment or domestic violence are unacceptable.”

Contact GRC Solutions today for more information about our off-the-shelf and bespoke compliance training in Anti-Corruption and Bribery and Diversity and Equality, including discrimination and sexual harassment.

Sources: The International Anti-Corruption Conference, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the Global Anticorruption Blog, ABC News

Have you considered effective workplace behaviour training ahead of the festive season?

festive season

With the festive season just around the corner your organisation should have your end of year Christmas party locked in. Corporate Christmas parties are organised to boost employee morale, reward staff and improve employee relationships. Instead, recent times have seen more of these yearly celebrations resulting in costly sexual harassment litigation.

Now is the best time to implement a diversity and equality compliance training program if you haven’t already. If you already have a Code of Conduct or Workplace Behaviour program in place, you are on track and should consider running your employees through a refresher course.

The festive season’s high social aspects make it particularly prone to unfortunate workplace behaviour incidents, particularly at external venues where alcohol is present. Corporate functions taking place outside of the office with a relaxed atmosphere make it easy for staff to lose their bearings. As a result, staff are unable to distinguish between inappropriate and normally acceptable office behaviour.

Regardless of where the event is held, corporate celebrations are considered a work activity under workplace-related legislation and employers will be liable. Employers are responsible for ensuring the safety of all employees at any work-related function just as they are when employees are carrying out their day-to-day activities. It is the employer’s responsibility to take steps to prevent inappropriate conduct from occurring whether through online compliance or face-to-face training.

Training staff so that they know their rights and abide by your workplace code of conduct is the best preventative measure. The consequences of non-compliance should also be laid out clearly.

In 2012, 71% of managers reported having to discipline staff over violence, discrimination and harassment at their Christmas party. On average, sexual harassment settlements cost between $15,000 and $25,000 in Australia, not to mention the huge impact of reputational damage.

Safeguard your organisation today with an effective Diversity and Equality and Work Health and Safety compliance training program.

GRC Solutions can also provide customised Code of Conduct training for your organisation.

Overseas business trip or sexual harassment episode?

sexual harassment 

To be given the opportunity to work overseas is the ultimate achievement for many senior executives. Although the majority respect their employers trust in them, many do see it as an opportunity to let loose while their employer turns a blind eye to poor conduct.

Australians who believe travelling internationally for work means they can drop their standards to a level that can be tolerated in whatever culture they go to is nonsense, commented Michael Harmer from Harmers Workplace Lawyers.

A former general manager of a company in Malaysia shares her thoughts on Australian workers with the Australian Financial Review. Her comments focus on the severity of Australians behaviour world-wide and suggests we should consider toning it down. “Some Australian executives feel like “rock stars” when they move to Asia, and are more likely to indulge in binge drinking, party drugs and taking clients to brothels than when they are at home.”

The increasing number of senior executives sexually harassing colleagues while overseas is worrying and will not go unpunished. Michael Harmer, prominent sexual harassment lawyer shared his concerns with the AFR, and brought a few examples to light.

In the past 12 months, Harmers Workplace Lawyers have negotiated three major settlements for employees where senior lawyers or accountants sexually harassed colleagues while overseas. The cases costing employers millions. “One settled for over $5 million gross, another for more than $1 million. In one case, an Australian partner at a global legal firm who moved to Asia allegedly used sexual entertainment and prostitutes to enrich client relationships. He was also accused of the deliberate posting of female colleagues to overseas offices so as to facilitate affairs with them, Harmer says.

This case warns organisations that while the sexual harassment behaviour occurred internationally where our Australian laws do not always apply, poor behaviour by Australian employers and their perpetrators can still be penalised. When strong decisions are made and communications are received in Australia, Australian regulations will still apply. Harmer also states that “employees working overseas have the right to sue for failure to provide a safe workplace if there is a sufficient connection with Australia.”

These cases are far from rare, but unfortunately the victims are usually paid out and removed by management, leaving the perpetrator’s career untouched. In some cases, leading them to a promotion to higher leadership roles even after receiving written complaints about them.

Workplaces who continue to turn a blind eye to inappropriate behaviour by not enforcing effective workplace policies or compliance training and who continue to reward and promote perpetrators should expect to experience diminished ability to attract and retain talent. They will also be at high risk of reputation damage.

Do an audit today and organise some workplace behaviour compliance training and policy updates to ensure your staff know their rights and most importantly feel safe and comfortable at work.

Source: Australian Financial Review

Sexual harassment – what is the “workplace”?

sexual harassment 

In a landmark court case, a Melbourne woman who was sexually harassed at a pub by a colleague has received a $500,000 payout. Significantly, the Federal Court found that the workplace “may be a fixed or moving location”.

The facts:

Chartered accountant Jemma Ewin, 36 was sexually harassed four times in May 2009 by contractor Claudio Vergara, 40. Each incident occurred in a different location: an office in the CBD, the Waterside Hotel, the Southern Cross train station and at Melbourne Aquarium during a work function.

  • Incident 1: while in the office, Mr Vergara turned the lights off one evening, walked behind her in the dark and tried to touch her hand. He told Ms Ewin that he would turn the light back on only if she agreed to talk with him, and they went to the Waterside Hotel.
  • Incident 2: at the Waterside Hotel, Mr Vergara proposed that they have an affair. Ms Ewin refused the offer.
  • Incident 3: outside Southern Cross train station, Mr Vergara tried to kiss Ms Ewin.
  • Incident 4: at Melbourne Aquarium, Ms Ewin accused Mr Vergara of rape. He was not charged by police.

The result:

The Federal Court found the Waterside Hotel’s pub met the statutory definition of “workplace” because the two parties met there to discuss incidents that occurred in the office. The fact that Mr Vergara was contracted through a labour-hire company was significant in determining that the hotel was in fact a workplace.

The Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick says this ruling has ramifications for other sexual harassment complaints. Employers should note that the definition of “workplace” extends outside the physical workplace; for instance, it could include anywhere you take your laptop, in an office building’s common areas, the café downstairs, on public transport, a taxi or a hotel. If there is a work connection, it counts.

Employers should be conscious that the laws relating to sexual harassment extend to their contractors, not just employees, and can cover situations that occur outside of the conventional workplace. Employers must ensure their staff are trained on the laws, their responsibilities and most importantly, know their rights. As the Commissioner notes, businesses need to stamp out sexual harassment from their workplace culture.

Sexual harassment laws in Australia
Sexual harassment laws have been laid down for over 25 years now. However, the problems and complaints continue. One in five complaints received by the Australian Human Rights Commission under the Sex Discrimination Act relate to sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment is defined by law as:

any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favours or conduct of a sexual nature in relation to the person harassed in circumstances where a reasonable person would have anticipated the possibility that the person harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated.

Sexual harassment comes at a high cost, both to individuals and organisations housing sexual harassment victims.

Talk to GRC Solutions today about our Diversity & Equality course.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

Sexual harassment: Know Where The Line Is

A new campaign called “Know Where The Line Is” aims to raise awareness of sexual harassment in the workplace.

The Human Rights Commission has launched the campaign with the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Over half of all sexual harassment cases in Australia occur in the workplace. According to the Commission, one in five people say they have not experienced sexual harassment, yet still describe experiences that meet the legal definition of sexual harassment.

Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, has written in the Sydney Morning Herald:

“One of the unusual things about sexual harassment is that – in the offices, factory floors, warehouses and work sites around our country – people know something ‘not right’ is happening to them or someone else, but they don’t know what to call it or what to do.”

“Take the woman who knows her workmate continually makes subtle, but unwelcome and inappropriate sexual comments and jokes which have, at different times, offended a number of his colleagues but who feels too uncomfortable to say anything.”

“Know Where The Line Is” empowers people to recognise behaviour that crosses the line. It also encourages bystanders to ‘See. Talk. Support.’

Talk to GRC Solutions today about our Diversity and Equality course, which contains awareness-raising training on sexual harassment in the workplace.