Corrective services collaboration
The Commission Services team continued its community outreach work with the Department of Corrective Services with a visit to Bandyup Women’s Prison in January this year.
Commission Services Manager Diana MacTiernan said the Commission had also visited Albany Greenough and Wooroloo prisons during 2016 and planned to continue visits to correctional facilities throughout 2017.
“The Commission is working in collaboration with the Department of Corrective Services as part of the department’s commitment to addressing systemic discrimination,” she said.
Ms MacTiernan said the prison visits allowed the Commission to identify potential discrimination issues and raise these with the department.
She said the visits also provided contact with prisoners and prison staff.
“Prisoners are informed of their rights under the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 and provided with an opportunity to raise issues of concern.”
“When prisoners provide consent, the Commission will raise concerns with the Prison Superintendent to facilitate a resolution,” she said.
Ms MacTiernan said the Commission’s ongoing role in relation to substantive equality was to assist public sector agencies address systemic discrimination and implement their substantive equality programs.
“Thirty one public sector agencies are participating in the substantive equality program.”
“The Commission encourages all public sector organisations to adopt substantive equality programs and works with individual agencies to provide information and feedback on their policies and procedures,” she said.
For more information about the Commission's Community Education and Training Fair Go for your Clients - addressing systemic discrimination courses go to our website.
The hidden cost of complaints
The State Administrative Tribunal is, generally speaking, a 'no costs' jurisdiction. That is, parties in the Tribunal usually bear their own costs.
However, the Tribunal has discretion to award costs against a party where their conduct has unnecessarily disadvantaged another party to the proceedings, or where they have rejected an offer of settlement better than the outcome reached in the Tribunal.
Commission Senior Legal Officer Allan Macdonald said it was important for complainants and respondents to understand that once a complaint was referred to the Tribunal by the Commissioner, the Tribunal took control and directed proceedings.
“In the Tribunal outcomes are no longer confidential and they can be costly for respondents and complainants."
"Unless the parties settle the complaint in confidence, everything that happens in the Tribunal is open to the public." Mr Macdonald said.
He said although many were aware monetary payments were sometimes awarded to complainants for financial loss or emotional damage, less were aware that a complainant could be ordered to pay costs incurred by a respondent if the Tribunal had found the complainant’s conduct unnecessarily disadvantaged the respondent.
“In a recent decision, the Tribunal found the complainant had made serious but unsubstantiated claims against the respondent and had been disruptive and unreasonable.”
“The complainant was ordered to pay $25,000 to cover costs incurred by the respondent,” he said.
In 2009 a complainant was ordered by the Tribunal to pay $50,000 in costs to the respondents, the Commissioner of Police and eight individual officers.
“The complainant conceded that there was inadequate evidence to proceed with many of the allegations and the Tribunal found she had acted unreasonably in prolonging proceedings,” Mr Macdonald said.
He said that before a complaint was referred to the Tribunal, in most cases a conciliation conference was conducted by the Equal Opportunity Commission to see if the complainant and respondent could come to a mutually agreeable way of settling the complaint.
Mr Macdonald said the conciliation process at the Commission gave parties more control over the outcomes and usually generated more goodwill going forward.
“Most complaints lodged at the Commission are resolved through conciliation with a number of outcomes such as an apology, policy changes or equal opportunity education which can sometimes be worth more to the complainant than money,” he said.
What's coming up
The Commission’s Training Calendar from February to June 2017 is now available. You can register for all Commission courses on the Community Education page
February 16 Fair Go For Your Clients - How to address systemic discrimination
February 22 Introduction to Equal Opportunity Law
March 1 Contact Officer Refresher - Equity Grievance Officer
March 7 Sexual Harassment - Know where the line is
March 8 International Women’s Day Speed Mentoring event
March 15 Contact Officer Role
March 28 Introduction to Equal Opportunity Law
Please contact us on 9216 3900 if you are interested in organisation specific training or for a rights based session for your clients or community members.
From the vault
Glidden v Woodley is an example of the types of sexual harassment cases referred by the Commission to the then Equal Opportunity Tribunal.
It outlines a complaint made by a young woman employed by an older accountant running his own business.
During the hearing, Terry Woodley denied Chantal Gliddon’s accusations of sexual harassment and sex discrimination stating:
“Why would I be chasing an inexperienced 17-year-old when for three bourbons and Coke and a bit of charm and charisma I could go to a nightclub and pick up someone and have sex in 23 positions?”
The Tribunal found Mr Woodley to be an unconvincing witness and ordered Mr Woodley to pay Ms Glidden $16,466.15.
Read the transcript on the Commission’s website.
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