Past issues

Equal Opportunity Commissioner's e-bulletin February 2017

by EOC | Feb 08, 2017

Speedy advice for International Women's Day

Former WA Chief Scientist and Western Australian of the Year Lyn Beazley will be one of 16 mentors at the Equal Opportunity Commission’s speed mentoring event for young women on International Women’s Day this year.

 Acting WA Equal Opportunity Commissioner Dr John Byrne said there were mentors from a range of sectors including federal members of parliament, business, the arts, academia and the public sector.

 He said the speed mentoring event fitted in well with the Commission’s focus on youth for the 2016-17 financial year.

 “The event is aimed at young women graduating from secondary school and at tertiary level starting their career paths and entering the workforce,” he said.

 Dr Byrne said the Committee for Perth’s Filling the Pool report identified mentors as ‘critically important’ to workplace gender equity.

 “Across most grounds at the Commission employment complaints are the most common and this is also true for sex discrimination.”

 “There is still a gender pay gap of 23 per cent in Western Australia, which is the largest in the country and a low representation of women on boards and in executive level positions,” he said.

 Dr Byrne said the Commission wanted to do something practical to engage youth on International Women’s Day that would hopefully help them overcome the issue s of workplace gender equality and raise awareness about equal opportunity.

 “Young women need to know there is support for them following their career paths.”

 “There are laws in place to deal with sex discrimination and harassment in the workplace and there are fantastic female role models happy to help them along the way,” he said.

Invite for mentees

See our list of participating mentors


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.