Allegations of staff members engaging in sexually inappropriate behaviour at one of New Zealand’s top law firms further demonstrate why every employer needs robust procedures and policies around sexual harassment, says Diversity Works New Zealand chief executive Bev Cassidy-Mackenzie.
Russell McVeagh chief executive Gary McDiarmid has confirmed the company undertook a full investigation after it received “serious allegations” about events that took place in Wellington more than two years ago, and that staff members who were the subject of the allegations left the firm following that investigation.
“We work with Russell McVeagh and its leadership has shown a commitment to creating an inclusive culture where all staff feel safe to bring their whole selves to work,” says Cassidy-Mackenzie.
“They have always had harassment policies in place and made staff aware of them.”
“But this incident illustrates that any organisation, big or small, needs to be prepared to deal with sexual harassment issues, and all businesses should have systems in place to protect and support staff when allegations are made.”
Following the incident, the New Zealand Bar Association says that respectful behaviour towards all staff in the legal profession is a basic starting point to have sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace eliminated.
New Zealand Bar Association president elect Kate Davenport QC says a safe work environment is a fundamental requirement for all.
“We encourage all women and men to speak out if they suffer any form of sexual harassment or bullying. The Association through its Mentoring and Bar Care programmes has senior members available to give advice and support to those who are in this unenviable position. We urge them to come forward and contact us.”
The New Zealand Law Students’ Association issued a statement saying it condemns any behaviour or conduct that makes a student feel unsafe or uncomfortable in a working environment.
“We note the obligation of all employers to create a workplace where employees are protected from any unwanted behaviour.
“We will continue to work with firms and universities to promote safe workplaces.”
The New Zealand Bar Association says that respectful behaviour towards all staff in the legal profession is a basic starting point to have sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace eliminated.