Can you imagine this? A worker is alleged to have sexually harassed another worker at your organisation. It’s a serious allegation including a matter of inappropriate touching and comments made over a long period of time. The young complainant also alleges that they were threatened with ‘an unpleasant work life’ if they were to report the matter. One of the Human Resource team leaks details of the matter to an industry publication that starts to give a ‘ball by ball’ description of the investigation based on innuendo and second hand information from staff ‘in the know’. The respondent to the complaint would be entitled to pursue a defamation claim on any matters that could not be substantiated.
I am really concerned that the general public are not taking ‘trial by media’ as a serious matter. The Australian Football League drug matter has provided us with a sobering example of inappropriate publicity related to what is essentially a workplace investigation. The very public allegations against Essendon and Melbourne players and now a Gold Coast player, that they have taken ‘banned substances’ is a farce. What a slap in the face for natural justice. The treatment of Essendon coach James Hird riles me in particular. How many times have I heard journalists flaunting their ‘….according to my sources, James Hird has’ blah, blah, blah! Isn’t an investigation with the power to change a person’s professional circumstances meant to be a confidential process? Why do we even have to know James Hird is under investigation? He is not a person in a public office.
Earlier this year the NRL (National Rugby League is also part of ASADA’s drugs in sport investigation) published the following statement on its website…’Identifying any player at this stage would be incredibly unfair……..The investigators have pointed out that the request to interview players does not mean those players are under direct suspicion.’
Whether or not Essendon agreed that the allegations against James Hird could be made public, the fact that they have gone public is a mistake. Without doubt, it places a public pressure on Hird that he and his family should never be forced to endure. At this stage, James Hird has been found guilty of nothing.