Why I am breaching my confidentiality clause

This is about my confidentiality clause and why I've decided to breach it.*

Long story but I made an equal opportunity complaint against the then Labor Premier and Deputy Premier, and the Premier's chief of staff, in 1999. I was dismissed from my job as researcher/adviser in early 1999 and I lodged the complaint later that year, after the Victorian election in which Labor formed government.

The case was eventually settled before hearing about two years later. I agreed to a confidentiality clause, although I didn't want to. I've decided to breach it because of the #MeToo movement. Confidentiality clauses are an important reason why sexual harassment and similar issues have been hushed up for so long. I've often pushed the boundaries with mine, but until now I haven't formally and publicly breached it. The fact that I'm nearly at retirement and fairly financially secure also makes it easier to do so now. Theoretically I could be sued. I don't think I will be, but I could. It would be interesting as a test case, although I don't really want to go down that path.

I don't even know where I've put the settlement and I'm a bit tired already from trying to go through this again. I'll find it later and go on.

(* I've edited this post a bit on 6 June 2018 to get rid of some irrelevant stuff and clarify it.)

3 March 2018: I've found the settlement. It's rather long, so I won't reproduce it all. In brief, the circumstances of my complaint were that I was dismissed from my job as health and social policy researcher/adviser in the office of the Leader of the Victorian State Opposition in March 1999. At that time the leader was Steve Bracks, who had just replaced John Brumby. His chief of staff was Tim Pallas, who dismissed me.

I did not make the complaint immediately because an election was expected and I was still keen to see Labor win, so I kept a low profile. Later that year an election was held and Labor won and formed government. Subsequently I made a complaint through the Equal Opportunity Commission. The key grounds of my complaint were that I had not been given the same opportunities as male colleagues during a review of staff conducted by Tim Pallas, and that there was a 'blokey' atmosphere in the then State Opposition office in which women were taken less seriously than men.

The case was protracted and there were some modifications during that time, but basically those were the key grounds, and I still say those are true. I'm not trying to rehash the case, or denigrate anyone, and I recognise that there were also other factors that influenced Tim Pallas' decision, nevertheless I continue to assert that those claims were true.

The respondents denied the claims and the case was eventually settled effectively as a wrongful dismissal rather than a discrimination case. However, one item in the settlement was that the Parliament of Victoria agreed to introduce equal opportunity training for MPs, which was an important achievement at that time.

Another achievement was detailed references and acknowledgement of my work. This was particularly important to me because the Labor party had continued to use my work after I was dismissed, and I'd had the really unpleasant experience of seeing Labor MPs on TV, using the words I'd written for them, even though I'd been sacked. The whole experience was traumatic and also had serious consequences for my family, which I won't go into, but it was very painful. It took me a long time to fully recover.

In some ways this experience was very like one which many women have talked about: where a woman will make a point in a meeting and it will be ignored until a man repeats it. However, it was greatly amplified by the fact that the MPs concerned were on TV, while I was at home watching, and trying to recover from my depression and get my life back together.

As I said, the written settlement contains a confidentiality clause. I believe that confidentiality clauses have contributed to so much of the cover-up of discrimination and harassment of women that I think there is an over-riding moral duty to breach them where possible. Just to explain briefly why I finally agreed to it, apart from the fact that I was exhausted after fighting the case for two years, it was represented to me that such clauses were normal and if I would not sign, this might prejudice my case should it continue to hearing. In broad terms, a complainant who won't agree to such a clause may be seen as vexatious  and unreasonable, and that's a very dangerous thing to be seen as in the legal system.

I don't think everything in every case needs to be made public, but I think there needs to be an agreed statement of facts that both parties can agree to and that should be public. Apologies in particular, which I received as part of my settlement, have little value unless they are made publicly. That's my take on it at the moment. I don't know if a case from almost 20 years ago will make any difference but hopefully every little step helps with this movement #MeToo #TimesUp


Popular posts from this blog

On honesty, rudeness, being offended

when I'm trying to say what I think but you think I'm insulting you ...