Sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination are rife in Ambulance Victoria, according to a number of paramedics.
The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission will investigate the allegations following reporting by The Age.
Sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination rife in Ambulance Victoria
Advanced life support paramedic Rasa Piggott alleged serious misconduct in an open letter to Ambulance Victoria’s chair, Ken Lay.
More than a dozen other employees subsequently backed up her claims.
Piggott detailed “active discrimination and instances of abuse in our workplace” including “horrible instances of sexual misconduct”.
She said supervisors tell female paramedics not to have children if they want their career to progress.
She also claimed Ambulance Victoria pressures new mothers to wean infants off breastfeeding early.
Reports subsequently made by other paramedics include a regional branch manager telling one young female graduate:
“I want to know right now, are you going to shit out a few kids and waste my time or be a good ambo?
“Should we even bother putting effort into you?”
Another paramedic told The Age she witnessed a male colleague sexually harassing a female paramedic while she performed CPR on a patient.
“He looked at her butt moving and said, ‘Oh the view is pretty good from up here’.
“He was breathing for the patient – I remember being horrified because the family was in the room at the time.”
The Age report also details other incidents including:
- a male paramedic slapping a colleague on the butt; and also
- a manager driving a young first responder in a regional area telling her that he could tie her to a tree and rape her.
As a result of the allegations, Ambulance Victoria chief executive Tony Walker has asked Human Rights Commissioner Kristen Hilton to commence an inquiry.
In a statement, Walker said the organisation will not tolerate harassment and discrimination.
“Like many Victorians, I am distressed and deeply disappointed to read reports of bullying, harassment and discrimination against women in my organisation.
“I want to be very clear that these behaviours and actions have no place in the Ambulance Victoria I lead.”
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from Fair Work Claims says Ambulance Victoria has a serious problem.
“From the number of complaints, it is clear the organisation has a systemic and cultural problem when it comes to harassment, discrimination and bullying,” he said.
“Victoria Police experienced similar issues a few years ago and have been working with the Human Rights Commission to improve workplace culture.
“Ambulance Victoria needs to implement a similar process so this offensive and unlawful conduct is stamped out.”