11 January 2009

Who is meant to protect you now? - Australian Watchdog a 'bully'

AUSTRALIA'S top workplace watchdog has been accused of sexual harassment and bullying by a senior female executive.

Sherry Pullen claims the Workplace Ombudsman bullied and humiliated her.

She says she was discriminated against, side-lined, demoted and ostracised because she was a woman in the Workplace Ombudsman office "boys' club". She has accused the Ombudsman, Nicholas Wilson, his deputy, Alfred Bongi, and his chief counsel, Leigh Johns, of discrimination in documents lodged with the Federal Court this week.

In a statement of claim seeking unspecified, but substantial damages, Ms Pullen said she suffered two workplace collapses because of the bullying. She alleged the Ombudsman asked, "How are we going to get rid of Sherry?" and complained she "fluffed around the office".
Ms Pullen, who earned $170,000 a year, plus a $25,000 performance bonus, as general manager (legal and advice), claimed she was the lowest-paid executive at the Ombudsman's office because she was female.

She claims she was removed from her position as general manager while responsible for a "high-profile litigious matter in Canberra" in 2006. She claimed women were banned from social events organised by Mr Wilson and Mr Johns and from having special office access passes that male executives carried.She alleged she was told "you will never be a member of the club because you are the wrong sex". She said she suffered an anxiety disorder which was caused and exacerbated by the bullying and workplace harassment.

She said she twice collapsed at work, once in 2006 and had a "mental collapse" in 2007.
Craig Bildstein, a spokesman for the Ombudsman, said the court action would be "vigorously defended". Yesterday, Ms Pullen's husband, Tim, said the family was struggling from the loss of Ms Pullen's income and the $110,000 in legal fees. "She's had no money since (March 2008). It's been very difficult."

He said Ms Pullen made a complaint about Mr Wilson to the Australian Public Service Commission and was awaiting the results of the inquiry.

11January 2008
source: www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,24896349-661,00.html

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