You must escalate a matter if your line manager fails to acknowledge certain risks

Scenario: An employee who works as a delivery driver approaches you with reports of being on the receiving end of sexual harassment from a few customer sites she regularly delivers to and no longer feels safe.

Her line manager tells you these customers have given feedback that they like to flirt with her and thinks it’s harmless, she will just have put up with it and if she complains again, to fire her. What do you do?

Response: An employer has a requirement under Occupational Safety and Health laws to ensure employees are provided a safe working environment.

By forcing an employee to put up with this harassment, when it’s clear she feels unsafe, is a clear breach of this requirement and will place the company at serious risk of penalties. You should explain this to the line manager and then escalate the matter if he will not take action.

If you ignore the safety concerns and follow the line manager’s direction to fire the delivery driver, this course of action is likely to constitute adverse action and give rise to a General Protections claim in the Fair Work Commission. As a HR manager, you should be aware of this risk and by blindly following a direction from your superior, you may also be at risk of personal penalties under the accessorial liability laws of the Fair Work Act. So again, you need to explain all of these risks to the general manager, and if he does not listen, escalate the matter to a more senior member of the organisation.

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