Workplace bullying and harassment in the advertising industry. “Mad Men” is no more?


Marketing management consultancy, Trinity P3, recently made headlines in advertising circles when it announced that it will require all advertising agencies wishing to work on land managed by Trinity P3 to provide a statutory declaration attesting to their processes regarding workplace bullying, harassment, and assault. The provision of a statutory declaration is not required for an agency to be considered, however, its absence (or presence) will be apparent to the client and may form part of their due diligence in selecting an agency for work.

In a LinkedIn Message from Trinity P3, the company outlined its motivations for the new policy:

Over the past 12 months, we have all heard the spate of stories where specific female employees have been targeted, intimidated and, in some cases, assaulted. It looked like Australia’s adland might suddenly have its ‘me too’ moment. But then the restrictions of our defamation laws worked to make sure nothing happened and the moment faded.”

TrinityP3 plays a key role in advising our clients on which agencies they choose to work with. We are trusted to provide insight and knowledge by recommending the agencies best suited to their needs. But we must also inform them of the possible risks and challenges that come with this selection process.

According to the LinkedIn post, Trinity P3’s statutory declaration will ask advertising companies to detail their use of confidentiality acts and similar instruments such as non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) that can silence victims of harassment and reduce reporting workplace issues. The focus on the prevalence of NDAs or confidentiality agreements and the impact of these legal arrangements on the reporting of sexual harassment mirrors that of the Victorian government, which recently announced its intention to propose legislative reforms to limit the use of non-disclosure agreements in sexual harassment. case.

Gretchen Carlson (a former Fox News reporter who sued former Fox News presidents and CEOs for harassment) has been a strong supporter of legislation prohibiting NDAs from silencing victims of harassment and assault in work and has publicly supported the Trinity P3 initiative.

It’s clear that ad agencies that run their workplace like an episode of Mad Men will not only likely face legal issues in the future, but hurt their chances of winning work and attracting top talent. .

This is therefore a timely reminder to agencies and indeed businesses across all sectors, to ensure that they are clear on what is expected of them both legally and socially.

Prevention and Response to Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Many sectors and industries are already familiar with tendering processes requiring disclosure of workplace issues and statements regarding workplace policies and procedures, but with a renewed focus on workplace harassment, all employers should act to:

  • review their policies and procedures on bullying and harassment;
  • ensure appropriate training is provided to all staff on bullying and harassment and the policies and procedures your organization has in place;
  • conduct an independent review of past reports of bullying and harassing behavior and consider how responses can be improved;
  • consider implementing a trauma-informed approach to bullying and harassment investigations; and
  • conduct surveys (including on an anonymous basis) of employees regarding workplace culture, including instances of harassment and bullying, to better understand whether the issue is under-reported or there are fundamental cultural issues requiring immediate attention.

All employers need to recognize that harassment and bullying in the workplace is not just an HR issue, but also a health and security at work issue that can expose the employer (as well as its directors or owners) to liability for employees who suffer injuries in their work because they failed to manage the risk of such behavior occurring.

Factors that increase the risk of sexual harassment

The identification and adequate management of workplace harassment risks are particularly important for employers in sectors where the risk factors for sexual harassment are high. Safe Work Australia has identified that the following factors increase the likelihood and risk of sexual harassment:

  • Power imbalances – workplaces where one sex occupies most management and decision-making positions.
  • A corporate culture that tolerates sexual harassment – where less serious forms of harassment are accepted and complaints about such behavior are not taken seriously. This can lead to an escalation into more serious forms of harassment, assault and violence
  • Isolation of workers.
  • Low diversity in the workplace (i.e. workplaces dominated by one gender, age group, race or culture).

A PCBU (a person running a business or business) has the responsibility to set the standards of behavior for their organization and to ensure that acceptable standards of behavior are reflected at all levels of your organization, including managers and supervisors. A workplace policy specifically on sexual harassment and training on the policy can help set clear expectations regarding behaviors in the workplace and during work-related activities and provide important information to workers, supervisors and managers, including what to do if they:

  • being a witness or victim of harassment at work; Where
  • receive a complaint from a worker who has experienced or witnessed workplace harassment.

It is also essential that supervisors and managers who may deal with or receive complaints of sexual harassment know how to respond if they receive a report or complaint, so that they know how to:

  • address concerns early and prevent larger issues from arising;
  • manage privacy issues;
  • know when a situation requires immediate escalation to the PCBU or counsel; and
  • respond appropriately to a person making a complaint, to ensure that the impact on the worker is not compounded and that they are not ‘re-victimized’ while they file a complaint.

We have compiled a downloadable file sexual harassment resource guide for employers. The guide is non-exhaustive and general in nature, but provides links to important information that should help employers better understand their obligations. Companies that are unsure of their obligations should consider consulting a labor lawyer to obtain legal advice and advice tailored to their situation.


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