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Bullying case against Airservices expands

Bullying case against Airservices expands

Representing air traffic controller Kirsty Fletcher, Maurice Blackburn will seek to expand its claim against Airservices Australia in a Federal Court hearing today (5 December). Launched on 28…

Representing air traffic controller Kirsty Fletcher, Maurice Blackburn will seek to expand its claim against Airservices Australia in a Federal Court hearing today (5 December).

Launched on 28 July 2010, the Federal Court proceedings involve allegations by Fletcher that she was subjected to extreme bullying and sex discrimination by the management of Airservices Australia (ASA), a government-owned corporation.

"We believe that a substantial amount of pornographic material was stored on the ASA computer system and that an ASA manager distributed it to other managers and employees regularly over a period of years," said Maurice Blackburn principal Josh Bornstein in a statement earlier this year.

"There is case law establishing that women exposed to pornographic posters at work can pursue claims of unlawful discrimination. We see no reason why the result should be different where the pornographic images and video content are on display on computer screens of colleagues and managers. Our client was exposed to pornographic sexual images while at work. We believe that by allowing this to occur, Airservices breached the federal Sex Discrimination Act."

According to Bornstein, the amendments to the claim focus on three key areas.

"We allege that there was a widespread culture of sharing pornography in the workplace, including by managers who were aware that they were flouting workplace policies prohibiting such conduct," said Bornstein.

"Secondly, that there was a widespread culture of hostility to female employees, part-time staff and pregnant workers by Airservices Australia management, and finally an environment in which managers committed to 'back each other' when employees lodged grievances or made complaints about their employer."

Bornstein said ASA management failed to deal with intense bullying and discriminatory conduct by one manager.

"In this male dominated workplace, women were fearful of hostility, bullying, harassment, threats, abuse and discriminatory treatment," he said.

Represented by Blake Dawson, ASA said it terminated Fletcher's employment "due to an irretrievable breakdown in the employment relationship".

Earlier this year ASA said it had made "a number of attempts, without success, to assist Ms Fletcher to return to work through offers of retraining and redeployment" and that it had also made "several unsuccessful attempts to resolve Ms Fletcher's claims through mediation processes".

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