Problems at the Human Rights Commission… more to come

The Human Rights Commission is mired in a sexual harassment scandal, but it won’t be the only scandal that hits them this year:

A sexual harassment scandal at the Human Rights Commission could undermine public trust in the organisation, an advocacy group says.

On Sunday, Stuff revealed a young American woman cut short her internship at the commission after she was groped by the organisation’s chief financial officer at a work party.

The commission investigated a sexual harassment complaint against Kyle Stutter, which resulted in disciplinary action. However, three months on, he remains employed there as chief financial officer. He threatened to sue if he was identified.

The commission is the country’s watchdog for unlawful discrimination and racial or sexual harassment. But the former intern said it seemed ill-equipped to deal with Stutter targeting her, and it didn’t acknowledge the seriousness of the incident.

Diversity Works NZ, a national membership organisation promoting diverse and inclusive workplaces, has criticised the commission over its handling of the incident.

Chief executive Bev Cassidy-Mackenzie said it risked a “no confidence vote” following the revelations.

“Businesses and the public will lack confidence in the Human Rights Commission unless it demonstrates it has policies and procedures in place to adequately deal with harassment within its own organisation,” Cassidy-Mackenzie said.

“The most disappointing aspect of the incident is that the young woman involved felt unsupported by her workplace when she reported the incident, and that there was no specific policy in place to deal with the matter.

“All organisations, big and small, have a responsibility to put procedures in place to look after their staff. And this organisation’s core role is to protect the human rights of all people in Aotearoa.”

The commission’s chief executive, Cynthia Brophy, said her organisation did have policies and procedures for internal sexual harassment complaints, which had been in place since 2009.

“This complaint was dealt with in accordance with this policy,” Brophy said.

“Nonetheless, we are looking at all aspects of our operations and checking for any opportunities for improvement.”

Following mediation, Stutter sent the intern a written apology and had to undertake anti-harassment counselling.

He also received a formal warning and had the incident recorded on his personnel file, to be removed after three years if there were no further complaints against him.

Stutter sent out an email to all of the commission’s employees, naming the intern and saying what happened was not in keeping with the commission’s values.

He also apologised and said he was deeply sorry. He advised staff to ask him directly for his account of events if they had any questions.

How ironic that Kyle Stutter was sent to anti-harassment counselling. I wonder if he was lectured to by any of those in that department who are facing a scandal of their own for involving themselves, and some say orchestrating, the online bullying and harassment of trans people.

I’m almost certain that a new scandal is about to descend on the Human Rights Commission and a few people working for them. It also has wider implications considering the politicians and political parties linked to those people and includes a prominent barrister as well. People’s careers are at risk if this hits and I know that journalists are aware of it and it may also involve significant legal action.

 


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story.  And when he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet.   Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet, and as a result he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist that takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him.  But you can’t ignore him.

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