Maurice Blackburn has today (28 July) launched multi-million dollar actions in the Federal Court and Human Rights Commission on behalf of two former Airservices Australia employees.
Jacki McDonald and Kirsty Fletcher claim they suffered years of bullying, abuse and discrimination within the government-owned air traffic control management corporation to the point they are no longer able to work.
Maurice Blakcburn principal Josh Bornstein told Lawyers Weekly the nature of the case shocked him and his colleagues, especially in relation to the systemic nature of the alleged behaviour.
"I've seen an enormous amount of material. There are strong grounds for alleging breaches of the Sex Discrimination Act, the Fair Work Act, the Workplace Relations Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act, amongst other things," he said.
"It's quite upsetting when you hear what has occurred and its effect ... There were a lot of people involved and aware of what was going on, [yet] virtually no-one acted properly or appropriately and that's what amazes me."
Amongst the long list of claims is that the women were refused access to training and professional development, were abused and belittled for being pregnant, told part-time employment was not welcome, were the subject of false allegations, exposed to pornography distributed by management and disciplined when they failed to cope with the alleged conduct.
"One of my clients advised that she was unfit to work and went home, after which she collapsed and was hospitalised. The next day she was given a first and final warning," said Bornstein.
"Australia may have its first female Prime Minister but the attitudes and behaviour of managers at Airservices is light years away from what a workplace should be in the 21st century. This is a workplace that is deeply hostile to women, particularly pregnant women and mothers."
Maurice Blackburn is seeking damages to the tune of $1 million for each of the women for loss of earnings and loss of their chosen career path.
A spokesman from Airservices told Lawyers Weekly that the organisation is "aware of the issues raised" and that the matter is being "taken seriously" by management.
"Our investigations have only just been completed and the matter is in the hands of respective legal advisors. Airservices will respond to the claims made in due course given the matter is now before the courts," he said.