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Workplace. Harassment. Discrimination and bullying

Updated on October 27, 2011

"Men like Mark McInnes, pumped up on their own self-importance, think they can impose their will on whomever, whenever they wish. The other senior executives at David Jones who stood by and looked the other way to protect their own interests are gutless." SMH 5.8.2010

Workplace. Discrimination in the workplace is much greater than you think. Harassment and bullying in the workplace is also quite prevalent. For those of you not living in Australia we are currently in the middle of a "short" Federal (national) Election campaign. Julia Gillard is the current Prime Minister having ousted Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in an overnight bloodless coup: instigated in part by a slump in the Labor Government's popularity and allegedly Kevin Rudd failure to consult with his colleagues.


Anyway back to the issue of this hub. In the very middle of ' wall to wall' media coverage of the Federal election campaign the focus has been interrupted by a $37 million dollar legal claim against the former CEO Mark McInnes of David Jones Australia's 2nd largest and oldest group of department stores. The CEO was sacked a few weeks ago and fled to the United States following his sacking and million dollar termination payment. David Jones "the store" has been named as well as a defendant in the legal action by Industrial Relation Lawyers-Harmer's..

Former CEO of David Jones Mark McInnes had already admitted that he "made mistakes" by repeatedly sexual harassing and touching of the female former senior Marketing Executive. A person who would be under McInnes because of his CEO role and who clearly had a power relationship with the complainant. So I put this to you how many of you have been put in the unfortunate position of being harassed by those in positions of power above you. The issue is about the criminal abuse of power. I say criminal because it can a serious adverse effect on the person been subjected to it male or female. Some say the claim is way out of whack but given that so many senior managers have abused their power of authority by demanding sexual favours for so long its high time that a serious penalty be given to stop the abuse.

I say this because as a young boy of 15 it happened to me when I started my first job in a hardware store in England way back in 1972. It was almost molested by a male in his late 50's at the time when i was just 15 and weeks into my first job. I don't think I had even kissed a girl at that stage. The incident upset me and I was bullied by the 50+ year old man until I left. I was a clearly vulnerable youth and was attempted set upon by a predator. Nevertheless all these years later a incident like this reminds me of how serious these matters can be.

David Jones are as you can guess not alone in Australlia when it comes to comlaints of unwanted sexual harrassment in the workplace.

The Australian Human Rights Commission conducted a national survey in 2008 and found that 22 per cent of women and 5 per cent of men claimed to have experienced sexual harassment at work. While that compared with 28 per cent of women and 7 per cent of men in 2003, indicating that progress was being made, Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick was deeply concerned about another finding.

"When we asked people about what they thought sexual harassment was, what we found was such a lack of understanding," Broderick tells The Weekend Australian. "People said 'no', when asked if they'd experienced sexual harassment. But when we asked them if they'd experienced any unwelcome touching or hugging, for example, they'd say, 'oh yeah, that happens quite regularly'."

Cases that appear before the Federal Court or state-based tribunals suggest that the same offences keep cropping up: unwanted touching, kissing, suggestive or pornographic emails and text messages, and persistent requests for dates.

Some of the many issues that this type of conduct raises is for one the psychological harm done to the victim. The corruption in favouritism given to employees that go along with this behaviour to those that refuse or rebuff it. More importantly the culture of cronyism and cover up,distrust denial and secrecy that can corrupt the workplace. It is about the harasser having power over the victim, which can have devastating results. I know because it once happened to me. woman whose lack of response to the sexual overtures meant her whole career and reputation was threatened with sabotage by a vindictive senior colleague.

In a recent development the former Chief Executive of David Jones  Mark McInnes has been appointed as CEO of The Just Group a retail organisation.  According to reports on a bas salary of three million dollars per year.

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    • barryrutherford profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry Rutherford 

      8 years ago from Queensland Australia

      prettydarkhorse

      I only really though about it for ther first time when i was considering my career & how I now understand how it adversly affected that in retrospect

    • prettydarkhorse profile image

      prettydarkhorse 

      8 years ago from US

      Well, I don't know why people like to harass other people, it is power and yes I agree it is criminal, And you know it by heart, you experienced it, wow, at the age of 15 huh, Maita

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      8 years ago from Chicago

      I have long thought that most of what is called sexual harrasment is a come on from an ugly guy. Most women would not object to being hit on by Brad Pitt. But Marty Feldman on the other hand . . .

    • barryrutherford profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry Rutherford 

      8 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Leanman indeed no man or woman are immune from abusing positions of power in regard to this.

    • LeanMan profile image

      Tony 

      8 years ago from At the Gemba

      It can work in reverse, I had a female engineer who wanted promotion and a pay rise, she requested a meeting in which she basically threatened to make allegations against me unless I gave her a pay rise!!! I told her I would consider her request and talk to her the following day, a meeting which I then recorded on my mobile phone as I refused her request.......

    • barryrutherford profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry Rutherford 

      8 years ago from Queensland Australia

      and in todays paper

      HEWLETT-Packard says CEO Mark Hurd is stepping down following a sexual harassment probe that found other violations of company standards.

      HP said overnight that Mr Hurd decided to leave after the investigation into a sexual harassment claim made against him and the company by a former HP contractor.

    • barryrutherford profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry Rutherford 

      8 years ago from Queensland Australia

      MPG Narratives thanks for your important comments

    • MPG Narratives profile image

      Marie Giunta 

      8 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Isn't it interesting that it takes a high profile case to bring issues such as sexual harassment to everyone's attention.

      Barry, sorry to hear it happened to you at such as young age, unfortunately it is rife all over the work place. I wish this girl luck and hope McInnes gets what he deserves.

      This may lead to better work relations, so we can only hope.

    • barryrutherford profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry Rutherford 

      8 years ago from Queensland Australia

      thankas ValerieBlew for sharing your experience. In other words you were adversely affected firstly by his unwanted advances then his bullying and abusive behaviour when you rebuffed him then you had to leave the job because the abuse was too much.

      A clear case for legal action if the incident was more recent. I really appreciate you sharing this thanks !

    • valeriebelew profile image

      valeriebelew 

      8 years ago from Metro Atlanta, GA, USA

      Yes, I've experienced sexual harrassment. Years ago at about twenty-six years old, I was an outside sales representative for the Hoover Company, an organizaton for which I sold floor care products to retailers in Fort Wayne, IN. Our former boss was transferred to a different state. The new boss attempted to get me to drink more than I was willing to drink during a supervision session he chose to have in a bar. I only drank one drink, my typical behavior when I suspect a guy has bad motives, still he tried to kiss me when he dropped me off at my apartment. The guy was my direct sales supervisor.

      After he got rejected he would shout at me in sales meetings in front of the other sales people, and he'd shout about nothing. Little things like not turning the pages of the spec sheet book quickly enough would call for being shouted at and told I was not performing well enough, and this after winning three regional sales contests and receiving special honors at the annual sales convention in Chicago.

      While I've heard it said that anything that makes a person feel uncomfortable can be classified as sexual harassment, my experience was much more than a man making a pass at me, which is common. It was actually harassment as yours was, with an intent to beat me down and humiliate me into submission. He didn't know what he was dealing with, because at twenty-six, I was already pretty hardened to harassment. I took him to court,and won. There wasn't much money in it, but I had the satisfaction of exposing his behavior so that he would never do the same to anyone else. Still, I quit the job before doing so because the pressure was just too great for me to stand. (:v

    • barryrutherford profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry Rutherford 

      8 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Thanks for your comments. I really believe it is high time to draw a line in the sand and regard repeated unwanted sexual advances by superiors in the workplace to be regarded as a criminal offence not something to be hidden and smirked about

    • ExpandYourMind profile image

      ExpandYourMind 

      8 years ago from Midwest USA

      I suspect this happens a lot more often that is reported -- even more nowadays since everyone is so concerned for their job. Thanks for shining some light on this awful problem.

    • barryrutherford profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry Rutherford 

      8 years ago from Queensland Australia

      thats why i think the woman in question is really courageous in taking on such a massive long standing corporate enitity such as David Jones. The details of here claim are all over the media. We are hoping that such a landamrk case will change the culture in the workplace for all people in future who are manipulated in a sexually confronting way by their bosses...

    • Deborah Demander profile image

      Deborah Demander 

      8 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

      These matters can be extremely stressful, and hard to deal with, as an inferior. You can't really tell anyone, and if you did, some people say, "Why are you complaining?"

      It is a no win situation. Thanks for writing.

      Namaste.

    • msorensson profile image

      msorensson 

      8 years ago

      We hear of these cases because they are high profile/high net worth individuals.

      Of course I do not condone people who make a use of their position to inflict pain on others, whether it is sexual or verbal or physical overt.

      That you left was good for you even if you felt like you were being forced.

      Look back and see the good that came out of it in the perspective of NOW.

    • barryrutherford profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry Rutherford 

      8 years ago from Queensland Australia

      well i was a teenager but still it was my first job & the incidentled to me leaving the company because of harrassment & bullying. Hopefully a big case like this will prevent cases in the future harming individuals just going about their job

    • msorensson profile image

      msorensson 

      8 years ago

      I am sorry about your incident as a child. As a single parent, this was my main concern as I was not with my child when I was at work when he was little.

      I DEMANDED that he tells me everything that happened during the day.

      I have no idea how to comment on your question about workplace harassment.

      We cannot know either, it is between the two of them. They are both adults, working with each other and whatever happened between them we cannot judge.

      Some person asked something like this on one forum...but the issue is so complicated.

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