Shine launches potential class action against Rio Tinto on discrimination, harassment grounds

The firm's investigation comes in the wake of a report published on the company's workplace culture

Shine launches potential class action against Rio Tinto on discrimination, harassment grounds

Shine Lawyers has announced that it is investigating a potential class action against Rio Tinto Limited (Rio Tinto) and its related subsidiaries in relation to possible sexual discrimination or harassment at mine sites in Australia.

The class action is being launched on behalf of the company’s employees and contractors. Shine class actions practice leader Sarah Thomson explained that the investigation sought to examine “whether Rio Tinto and/or its related subsidiaries, failed to take adequate steps to eliminate discrimination and sexual harassment for employees as far as possible in its workplaces, and whether they are liable”.

The investigation was initiated in the wake of a report published by Elizabeth Broderick & Co in February 2022 on Rio Tinto’s workplace culture. Broderick, who served as Sex Discrimination Commissioner from 2007 to 2015, had been tasked with conducting a “comprehensive independent review” of Rio Tinto’s culture in line with an aim to bolster its global operations.

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The report “identified disturbing findings of bullying, sexual harassment, racism, and other forms of discrimination through the company”, Thomson said. It also found that “a large proportion of female employees described enduring everyday sexism which impacted self-esteem, personal relationships and their employment”.

In line with the Sex Discrimination Act, employers can be held vicariously liable for harassment committed by employees if they fail to take “all reasonable steps to prevent the employee from committing the harassment”.

“We do not live in a world that tolerates sexual abuse and harassment in any workplace. Women have spoken out about instances of sexual abuse and assault and ultimately being driven out of the industry for speaking out. We cannot let any employer get away with this conduct without consequence”, Thomson said.

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