Federal Court takes dim view of an unlawful conduct by employer: Warning to CSIRO

Posted on June 20, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

RMIT reinstates professor after court order

RMIT UNIVERSITY has reinstated a professor, in line with a Federal Court order, after deciding not to appeal a judgement upholding claims she had been unfairly dismissed.

Judith Bessant, professor of sociology and youth studies, had been dismissed after raising various complaints against her supervisor, including bullying allegations. She was reinstated last Friday.
In a judgment last month, Federal Court Justice Peter Gray had warned that Professor Bessant could have been entitled to compensation of up to almost $2 million if she wasn’t reinstated after finding the university had breached the Fair Work Act.
“The University takes very seriously its obligations under the Fair Work Act and the university’s enterprise agreement. The university has decided not to appeal the decision,” RMIT chief operating officer and vice-president (resources), Steve Somogyi, told the HES.
In the trial RMIT had sought to argue that Professor Bessant had been dismissed for financial reasons.
But in what Justice Gray said was a “very serious” breach of workplace laws, he found that RMIT had unfairly made her redundant “at least partly because she was prepared to exercise her workplace rights by making complaints about the behaviour of her immediate supervisor”.
Professor Bessant said she expected to be initially in a research-only role, in line with an agreement reached with management prior to her dismissal in April last year. She said she was keen to eventually take on a research and teaching role.
In line with the earlier agreement, Professor Bessant has been given an office in a separate building from that housing her former supervisor, David Hayward, dean of the school of Global, Urban and Social Studies.
In his judgment Justice Gray noted that a 2010 RMIT investigation of Professor Bessant’s complaints against Professor Hayward had found that his conduct hadn’t amounted to bullying, but that he had been “confrontational”.

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5 Responses to “Federal Court takes dim view of an unlawful conduct by employer: Warning to CSIRO”

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She made a bullying complaint against her supervisor so he made her redundant ‘for financial reasons’. And top management washed their hands. This judgement is a warning not only for CSIRO but also its managers including CEO and her deputies as they can be held personally responsible for unlawful conduct.

When you look at the fact that 100% of whistle-blowers who identified themselves were sacked within weeks or months of making a public interest disclosure, It would not be surprising at all if Senior CSIRO executives are getting nervous.

False redundancy is an convenient way of getting rid of “difficult” people, particularly those who have some knowledge of the embarrassing conduct of their “professional superiors” as a previous member of the Executive Management Team once put it!

Dismissal of a few key senior officers of the CSIRO arising from Serious Misconduct might finally start getting the message through

There is nothing in this Judgement order where anyone from RMIT is held personally responsible or Liable. Can you please show where in the Judgement order anyone senior staff has been held Personally Liable or responsible and ordered to pay a fine? The Judgement orders the fine be paid by RMIT not any individual senior staff or the deputy Vice Chancellor or anyone else.

@Anonymous – you are correct – there is no finding against individuals in the case against RMIT because there was no negligence.

However, many of the CSIRO victims suffered as a result of negligence of individual managers. This case, given it was not appealed by RMIT, will be relied on by those ex-CSIRO staff who decide, or have already decided, to pursue their rights through the Courts.

CSIRO Senior directors and officers are very accomplished and highly skilled in the field of Bullying & Harassment. The skills they have are the skills very few people have and they execute their skills to perfection. Good or bad, their ability and skills need to be respected. They use all resources at their disposal. They even use the inherent inefficiency at CSIRO to their advantage. If they can take the law makers ,in their place, for a ride and mislead them you could well imagine the skill they have. They are highly innovative, an example is the CSIRO funded “Independent” investigation.

They have had their days for 10 long years and nothing could be done to them.

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