Discrimination in the workplace has been around since work began and takes various forms – favoritsm, nepotism, bullying, sexual harassment. And its all about power, best and most entertaining told by Michael Crichton in ‘Disclosure’ (and made into the very good movie with Demi Moore and Michael Douglas).
What has changed these days, though, is that people are more aware of what is going on and whats ok and what isnt. And sometimes a case hits the headlines which all of a sudden highlights that we still do have a problem. That case is Rainer Bruederle, an influential politician of long standing with the German liberal party, who made a more frivolous remark to a newspaper reporter, which triggered a nationwide discussion:
So, where does that sit with Employment Law? Its all about culture and eductation and the way in which workplaces are organised. Germany’s Equal Treatment Act prohibits any form of discrimination or sexual harassment, but there is no such designated Act in New Zealand. So its back to the Human Rights Act (“Gender/sex”), the Employment Relations Act (“good faith/ trust and confidence”) and even the Health and Safety in Employment Act (‘Stress”), neither of which even define what bullying or sexual harassment is. There is the Equal Employment Opportunities Trust initiatve (www.eeotrust.org.nz ) , but for Employers who take part its more a mission statement than an actual legal obligation.
All of which doesnt make it easier for anyone claiming to be the subject of sexual harassment or bullying. Once more, it is therefore for the individual employer to ensure its policies make it clear whats ok and whats not. Dont wait for the the NZ Rainer Bruederle to make headlines.