ABC staff warned after damning sexual harassment, bullying survey

The ABC’s chief executive has admitted the broadcaster is not upholding its own standards on bullying and sexual harassment.

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

Addressing staff on Wednesday, Anderson said the survey results, which were collected in the second half of 2023, were unacceptable.

“If anyone doesn’t understand or accept that, then the ABC is not a working environment for them,” he told staff in an email, according to Nine newspapers.

“There will be consequences for those staff found to have behaved in an unacceptable manner, regardless of their role at the ABC.”

Research by the Australian National University’s Center for Social Research revealed that a quarter of respondents reported being bullied.

The most common forms of bullying were intimidation, belittling and humiliating comments.

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

In a separate email, news director Justin Stevens stressed that this behavior “should not happen” at the nation’s public broadcaster and acknowledged the difficult but necessary discussions that will follow.

“For those who behave this way, it is unacceptable and we will not tolerate it. Anyone who behaves like this or makes excuses in any way is not welcome on ABC,” he wrote.

The research comes after the broadcaster became embroiled in controversy over the sacking of stand-in presenter Antoinette Lattouf.

This week, the Fair Work Commission ruled that the national broadcaster fired Lattouf after she was pulled from the program following social media posts related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Ms Lattouf launched the lawsuit after she was sent home for the last two days of a five-day stint on ABC radio’s Sydney Mornings program last December.

The Fair Work Commission found the ABC had terminated her employment in a ruling published on Monday, rejecting the ABC’s counter-claims and opening the door for her to sue the national broadcaster in federal court.

Ms Lattouf was called in to fill in for presenter Sarah Macdonald for five shifts starting on Monday, December 18, but was told not to come in for the final shifts on Thursday and Friday that week.

She claimed she was illegally fired after she shared a post on Human Rights Watch social media that read: “HRW reports on starvation as a tool of war.

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

In submissions to the Fair Work Commission, Ms Lattouf’s lawyer, Mark Gibian SC, argued that “the ABC specifically terminated Ms Lattouf’s employment” by calling her into a meeting on December 20 and claiming she had breached the ABC’s social media policy .

Ms. Lattouf claims that she was told during that meeting that she would not be completing her shifts on Thursday and Friday of that week.

“This is an express termination, which clearly belongs to the concept of termination at the initiative of the employer,” argued Mr. Gibian.

In a letter sent to ABC management and published in the Fair Work Commission ruling, Ms Lattouf claimed she had been told “that Jewish lobbyists were unhappy that I was on the show”.

In a statement, Ms Lattouf’s lawyer Josh Bornstein of Maurice Blackburn welcomed the Fair Work Commission’s decision to reject the ABC’s attempt to strike out her wrongful dismissal.

“We will add to the wrongful termination lawsuit that is currently in federal court alleging that ABC also breached its enterprise agreement by firing Antoinette Lattouf without due process and without proper basis,” Mr. Bornstein said.

“If the court is satisfied that the ABC has acted unlawfully, it has broad powers to make orders, including reinstatement and compensation, along with the possibility of penalties.”

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