You are Siva Neelkumar, the CEO of Bengal Engineering- a very successful Indian engineering firm that operates in mainly the civil engineering sector. Last year Bengal purchased a medium sized Australian firm based in Brisbane called Paddington Engineering, similarly working in the civil engineering sector. Its Chief Operating Officer, Pauline Rictor was contracted to remain with the firm for a period of 12 months following your takeover too ensure a smooth transition. Six months ago you sent one of your most successful engineers, Vikram Shah to Brisbane to be the Chief Engineer- reporting to Pauline, with a view to him taking over the role once she leaves at the end of the year. This was his first overseas posting although he did undertake his engineering degree in the UK some 25 years ago.
However, since his arrival in Brisbane some 6 months ago major problems have arisen.
Vikram has contacted you and says he refuses to work under the direction of a woman. Pauline has also contacted you and advised that Vikram has publically challenged her authority and made derogatory remarks about Pauline, in several staff meetings, which were witnessed by which fellow colleagues. During one meeting he was recorded as saying telling Pauline to “shut up you, are just a woman and do not question me again!”
Vikram has called you and demanded that Pauline be sacked suggesting that she is incompetent and that he should take over as soon as is practical.
Pauline on the other hand has contacted you and indicated that unless Vikram is removed she will file a formal complaint with Fairwork Australia and sue the company for subjecting her to vilification and harassment. She has indicated that she would be willing to leave the organisation should you offer her a redundancy payout that reflects her 8 year commitment to the firm plus the remainder of her contract which would amount to $250,000. (Previous redundancies have been based on a $25,000 per year of service). Whilst this is affordable you are concerned at the message this might send to the rest of the Australian team.
As Siva is not an Australia and has never worked in the Australian context, he is unfamiliar with any of the Industrial or HR frameworks.
You and your team are to provide Siva with a presentation and report that outlines:
- An overview of whether Vikram has breached relevant Queensland anti-discrimination and or Bullying legislation
- What are the likely implications should Pauline decide to take Bengal to the Fair Work Commission
- Would it be best to fire Pauline so as to minimize any future conflict?
- What action if any should be taken against Vikram?
You are expected to access key legislation from Queensland and Australia.
You need to outline an appropriate performance management process and HR frame content, and Fair Work Australia cases as part of your analysis and recommendations.
After a thorough study of Queensland anti-discrimination and bullying legislation and the relevant Fair Work Australia laws, we found out that Vikram has breached the relevant legislation that protects employees from unfair discrimination. The national and state laws in Australia advocate for equal employment opportunities and fair treatment for all people in their workplace (Stewart, 2011). As the CEO of Bengal Engineering firm, it is crucial to understand the duties and responsibilities under anti-discrimination legislation laws. By putting down anti-discrimination procedures for the employees in the new firm in the newly purchased Paddington Engineering firm in Australia, you will help increase productivity and efficiency since the employees will be aware of how they are supposed to relate in the workplace. For instance, if Vikram had adequate information about how bullying and discrimination are covered under Queensway workplace and anti-discrimination legislation, he could not have bullied Rictor because she is a woman.
The Queensland Anti-discrimination commission allows employees to report cases of bullying to the Fair Work Commission to stop bullying. According to the Queensland legislation bullying behaviors include abuse, intimidation, and humiliation on the basis of gender, age, race, and religion (Ttofi & Farrington, 2009). One of the ways in which Vikram has breached the Queensway anti-discrimination laws is challenging her authority publicly simply because she is a woman. The laws state that all people should be given equal opportunities as long as they are qualified regardless of their gender. The other way that Vikram breached the law is humiliating Rictor in front of his collogues by making derogatory remarks about her in several staff meetings. The Australia Human rights Commission also provides guidelines for selection and recruitment process to the employees to help them hire workers fairly without any discrimination. So as a CEO of Bengal Engineering Company, it is advisable to follow these procedures to avoid such problems in the future (Stewart, 2011).
Discrimination can cost an organization resources, time, and also destroy its reputation. Being the CEO, it can be challenging to meet the demands of all the employees. Although sacking Rictor and compensating her to solve the issue may not be a bad idea, it may undermine the company’s reputation in Australia because it shows that the firm does not respect women. On the other hand, failure to listen to Vikram may lead to other problems such as conflicts between him and Rictor because he is supposed to report to her. The Fair Work Commission has the right to stop bullying at the workplace if the employee reports a case of harassment (Stewart, 2011). Once a person has made an application at the commission, the commission can then start dealing with the issue 14 days after the application has been made. The most likely implications to the Bengal firm should Rictor decide to report the harassment to Fair Work Commission in Australia is that the company will have to compensate her total of $250,000 through the court order. However, for the sake of the whole company, it is advisable for Visa to solve this issue out of court because it will help save the company time and money. Additionally, it may create a bad image for the Australian team which will consequently affect the productivity of the team because they will assume that the CEO does not respect the rights of the employees.
Discrimination in the Workplace
Firing Pauline will not help solve future conflicts in the future. As the CEO, the most appropriate action to take is to let her complete her 12 months then Vikram can take over as the Chief Operating Officer from there. Firing Pauline paints a lousy picture of the firm to other team members because they will think that the CEO is favoring those who come from his region and men. Although organizations, realize when it is too late, the best way to solve such conflicts at the workplace is to handle issues without involving the authorities. The CEO of Bingel has the responsibility to provide the workers with safe and free working environment at Paddington Engineering firm. To achieve this, the CEO will have to raise awareness about bullying and harassment at the workplace through training. Another way of preventing harassment will be to make it clear to all employees that bullying is not accepted and will not be tolerated at Paddington Engineering firm. Additionally, identifying all behaviors that constitute harassment and writing them down for employees will also be a right way of solving future conflicts since employees will be aware of things that are considered as bullying (Reisel, 2015).
It is advisable for Visa as the CEO, to also implement performance management process because it will ensure that all employees behave accordingly and this will help minimize the bullying complaints. Performance management involves setting realistic targets for all employees which they should meet and reviewed within a given period of time. Through this understanding, all the employees will always be busy working to achieve their targets and there will be minimal free time for them to engage in bullying.
It was wrong and unfair for Vikram to handle the issue in a very immature way. As a person who has professional skills in engineering, harassing and humiliating Pauline because she is a woman was very inappropriate. The best action he could have taken was to seek advice from his colleagues and his boss on how to handle the issue without causing any alarm. He could have respected Pauline and done his work in preparation for taking over the company once she is through with her contract. However, once he decided to breach the human rights laws in Australia, it showed that he does not understand well what is required of him when it comes to employees rights at the workplace. The fact that Pauline is a woman does not make her unfit to hold a top managerial position (Reisel, 2015). Therefore, the CEO Mr. Visa should take the necessary action against Vikram as a lesson to him and others who may think of portraying such behaviors in the company. The most appropriate action, in this case, would be to suspend him from the company’s operation as a disciplinary action.
Reisel, L. (2015). The Meaning of Ethnic Equality in Scandinavian Anti-Discrimination Legislation. Nordic Journal of Migration Research, 5(1). doi: 10.2478/njmr-2014-0023
Stewart, A. (2011). Fair Work Australia and the Legacy of the Commission. Journal of Industrial Relations, 53(5), 551-555. doi: 10.1177/0022185611419606
Ttofi, M., & Farrington, D. (2009). What works in preventing bullying: effective elements of anti?bullying programmes. Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, 1(1), 13-24. doi: 10.1108/17596599200900003
Workplace discrimination, harassment and bullying | Australian Human Rights Commission. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.humanrights.gov.au/employers/good-practice-good-business-factsheets/workplace-discrimination-harassment-and-bullying
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