A major hardware chain has taken a stance against sexism, banning some tradesmen from stores over sexual harassment of staff.
The ABC has learned that at least one Bunnings store in Melbourne has taken action because of sexist behaviour towards its employees.
A female Bunnings staff member told 774 ABC Melbourne’s Jon Faine that she complained to management about sexual harassment from some tradesmen shopping at the store.
Faine said the staff member feared for her job after making the complaint but was “delighted” when the outlet reacted by banning the tradies.
Bunnings has declined to comment.
Employers have ‘legal obligation’
Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Kate Jenkins, who will shortly take up the role of Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner, said the move by Bunnings “makes complete sense”.
“The law does prohibit sexual harassment, and it requires employers to make sure they are providing a workplace which is safe and where there is no harassment,” Ms Jenkins said.
“They have a legal obligation to do something if their staff are being exposed to sexual harassment.”
Ms Jenkins said there were also sound commercial reasons for the move and said she believed banning some tradesmen from the stores would not have a major impact on the business.
“I know that tradies will be important customers, but half of the population are women and it just seems good for business to me that they would say we want women and men to be treated well,” Ms Jenkins said.
“It won’t affect all men, most men are not treating women badly … it’s really looking at not alienating half your potential customers.”
Ms Jenkins said Bunnings might be reluctant to talk about the move because it feared a backlash from some in the population who believed such sexist behaviour was “just a little bit of fun”.
“I still think this issue of everyday sexism, and whether you stand up to it, is really polarising,” Ms Jenkins said.
“People either say, ‘it’s really good we’re sick of this, it’s time it stopped’, and the other half go, ‘oh, don’t be ridiculous’.”
She said research had shown that ignoring everyday sexism created an environment where more serious abuses were tolerated.
“The little stuff does add up to big stuff,” Ms Jenkins said.