Retired judge's review uncovers sexual harassment at the Human Rights Commission

by Sol Dolor23 May 2018

Justice Minister Andrew Little has released the report completed after the review of the Human Rights Commission’s (HRC) handling of sexual harassment complaints and its governance and management structures.

“I acknowledge the work conducted by retired Judge Coral Shaw. Her findings reveal a system that failed to provide proper care and support for sexual harassment claims made by staff,” Little said.

The report found that some sexual harassment occurred within the HRC, but this was not prevalent or endemic. It also found that the “Dignity at Work” policy that was used to investigate the October 2017 incident was aged and outdated.

The former judge also found that the commission recently improved its systems and processes for dealing with sexual harassment complaints. It adopted a new policy, but the commission failed to conduct a full consultation with HRC employees.

Little said that he is concerned that the review found that staff members lack information and trust in management to deal appropriately with complaints, which is a potential impediment to the successful implementation of the new sexual harassment prevention and response policy.

The report also found that there is a deep divide between some staff and some managers, as well as a lack of trust in the management and the commissioners among some staff. The board’s strategic leadership is also compromised by a lack of cooperation and communication between commissioners, and between commissioners and the chief executive, Little said.

“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,” Little said. “I am currently awaiting advice form the Ministry of Justice. I will also meet with the State Services Commission today to discuss the next steps to fulfil the report’s recommendations. I have spoken to all commissioners and the CEO, and I will now deal with the question of commissioner appointments, as a matter of priority.”


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