Harassment in the work place, and retirement of magistrate Karen Fryar AM

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8 March 2019

At last month’s Intensive CPD, among many very worthwhile seminars, was “Working with Monsters”. Dr Rebecca Michalak very capably illustrated the “dark side of the law industry”, where employees of legal firms have had to work under the shadow of bullying, discrimination, sexual harassment, and similar behaviour.
Overall, Dr Michalak’s research (“Causes and Consequences of Work-Related Psychosocial Risk Exposure”) shows that a large percentage are subjected to these behaviours in both private and non-private practice workplaces in Australia and New Zealand. Of these, the vast majority do not report their experiences in any way. Lawyers, for example, are three times more likely to seek employment elsewhere than report.
Inaction allowing situations like these must not be tolerated. Members should be aware of Rule 42 of our Conduct Rules, which state: “A solicitor must not in the course of practice engage in conduct which constitutes: Discrimination; Sexual harassment; or Bullying.” Breach of the rules can constitute “unsatisfactory professional conduct”, or the more serious “professional misconduct”.
For further reading I suggest the very comprehensive submission of the Law Council of Australia to the Australian Human Rights Commission in relation to its National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces.
Today in a ceremonial sitting of the ACT Magistrates Court, we have farewelled one of our long-serving and much-cherished Magistrates, Karen Fryar AM. Karen was admitted to practice in 1982, and in 1993 was appointed as a magistrate (and coroner) of the ACT Magistrates Court, being the first woman to be appointed to the judiciary in the ACT.
Karen excelled in presiding over of the dedicated Family Violence list of the Court, and in her other work in prevention of family violence – to the extent that in 2010 she was named a Member of the Order of Australia (AM).
If you missed the Court sitting this morning, you can still attend the Law Society and Bar Association farewell dinner for Her Honour at the Boathouse on Thursday 11 April 2019, or hear her speak at our Annual Blackburn Lecture during Law Week on Tuesday 14 May 2019.
Chris Donohue President, ACT Law Society