New Zealand Law Society - Sexual harassment at Human Rights Commission confirmed in Judge’s report

Sexual harassment at Human Rights Commission confirmed in Judge’s report

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Justice Minister Andrew Little has released the Ministerial Review of the Human Rights Commission (HRC) in relation to the internal handling of sexual harassment claims and its organisational culture.

Judge Coral Shaw’s review has found that sexual harassment did occur within the HRC but was not prevalent or endemic. It has also found that the Dignity at Work policy used to investigate the October 2017 incident was outdated.

The review came following publicity about an intern’s sexual harassment complaint against a manager’s actions at an HRC after-hours party.

The report says the Commission has improved its systems and processes for dealing with sexual harassment complaints by adopting a new Prevention and Response to Sexual Harassment 2017 policy, but it was formulated without full consultation with HRC employees.

Judge Shaw found there was a "deep divide" between some staff and their managers, and a lack of trust among staff that any complaints would be handled appropriately.

“It is vital that New Zealanders have trust and confidence in the Human Rights Commission as New Zealand’s authority for dealing with complaints about sexual harassment,” says Mr Little.

The Commission says it accepts all the recommendations in Judge Shaw’s review, and is already actioning some of the changes she suggests.

Chief Commissioner David Rutherford says the report was confronting to read.

“I take responsibility for the concerns Judge Shaw has raised about the Commission.

“We apologise to all those who have been affected by what has happened, particularly the complainant,” he says.