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Australian Women Sue Airport Employer for Discrimination

Australian Women Sue Airport Employer for Discrimination

Women have often found that when they are far outnumbered by men in their workplaces, they may find themselves victims of harassment and discrimination.  But few women expect to put up with the kind of treatment two women in Australia suffered, one of them for nearly two decades.

Via The Syndey Morning Herald:

TWO female air traffic controllers have accused their government-owned employer of allowing ”extreme” sexual discrimination and bullying, with claims a manager told one of the women to have an abortion with a coathanger.

The women are seeking more than $1 million each in damages from Airservices Australia as part of an action in the Federal Court in Melbourne.

”What the proceedings I think will do is to shed some light on a workplace culture that has been extraordinarily hostile [to women],” said their lawyer, Josh Bornstein, a principal at Maurice Blackburn.

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Mr Bornstein said a separate action would be brought in the Human Rights Commission.

Both women, Jacki Macdonald and Kirsty Fletcher, have been long-time employees of the male-dominated Airservices Australia at Melbourne Airport. The women say they were exposed to pornography that a manager distributed around the office and suffered regular bullying and abuse.

They also allege they were denied access to training and professional development, were belittled for being pregnant and were the victims of false allegations. When they both separately complained in April and May 2008 they were ignored.

According to the news report, besides the pornography and bullying that added to the hostile environment, things became even worse when one employee told her supervisor she was pregnant, only to have him say he had “a coathanger in the back of his car.”

That these women were able to put up with such a situation for so long is admirable.  That their complaints were ignored is horrible.  But that such an environment is ever condoned in the first place is completely deplorable.

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79 comments

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8:49AM PDT on May 27, 2012

Hope the women win their case: Irrespective of the sexism, this is a completely unprofessional way for their male colleagues to behave.

5:33AM PDT on May 27, 2012

what airport is it that allows the air traffic controllers to look @ porn instead of keeping passengers on planes safe - we all need to be aware so that we can warn anybody bound in that direction. obviously it behoves all to avoid an airport where the air traffic controllers are less than 100% committed to their work

5:33AM PDT on May 27, 2012

what airport is it that allows the air traffic controllers to look @ porn instead of keeping passengers on planes safe - we all need to be aware so that we can warn anybody bound in that direction. obviously it behoves all to avoid an airport where the air traffic controllers are less than 100% committed to their work

7:49AM PDT on Aug 10, 2010

appalling that incidents like this continue to happen anywhere, that coat hanger spoken of could easily removed tongues, maybe vocal chords, not normally condoning violence but for idiots like this, there is no reasoning with them, 1 brain cell if that is not capable of basic comprehension. It is those who've not dismissed the ones who've harrassed immediately that I also find fault with, I truly hope they prevail legally.

3:18AM PDT on Aug 10, 2010

Chauvanism in Australia? The hell you say >_>

6:38AM PDT on Aug 9, 2010

Sounds like things were pretty bad.If it all pans out in court and these allegations are found to be true, I think the offenders should be punished appropriately. That said, I don't like porn at all, and especially at the workplace. I used to work with a guy ( I am male as well) who would, on occasion, show me what one might consider to be pornographic pictures on his iPhone. Some of the stuff was amusing to look at, but I did tell him that being a manager, he should know better than to show that stuff around the workplace - that one never knows when someone who may appear to be amused, or not caring, might just turn on him and report his conduct to a superior. Best to leave all that stuff at home.
I think that in this case, what is going to be difficult to prove (although it is extremely premature for me to know for certain) is the allegations of being denied access to training and professional development. Indeed, if the decision not to allow these women access was gender-based, then it most certainly is a violation and should be disposed of in an appropriate manner. Or the women may charge that they were denied access because of previous complaints that were filed by them. Either way, that charge will be a difficult one to prove. I wish them luck and this should be a warning to all people that any type of harassment of individual(s) at the workplace will not be tolerated.

6:51PM PDT on Aug 8, 2010

I know how they feel,Thanks

6:25PM PDT on Aug 8, 2010

Actually, Scott V, any man that brings pornography to his workplace is a weenie.

4:32PM PDT on Aug 8, 2010

Scott V. says
Aug 2, 2010 8:25 PM
What ! Men that act like men not weenies? So they have girlie pics no foul! Not allowing training ;Foul!

This is the mindset that causes so much trouble for BOTH genders. The silly belief that men who do not partake of porn are "weenies" Or worse. Puppets puppets puppets!

10:10AM PDT on Aug 8, 2010

What a jerk! If one of my managers treated me like that, I'd not only quit, I'd also take legal action against him. How dare they treat them like that just because of their gender?! To tell a woman who's pregnant to abort herself with a coathanger is disgusting. These men should be fired, fined, and be forced to not only attend sensitivity training but to also endure the same treatment they gave those women.

It's absolutely disgusting that someone could treat them like that. What sexual organs we are born with does not dictate our worth!

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