Human Rights Commission CFO gropes, keeps job

I think there is still a big and unresolved issue about how small but personally invasive actions can result in major repercussions – for both the victims and the offenders.

This groping story is of particular interest because a senior staff member of the Human Rights Commission is allegedly involved.

Stuff: Human Rights Commission finance boss sexually harasses young intern, keeps job

A young American woman cut short her internship at the Human Rights 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.

From what is reported it’s difficult to judge whether what happened was of job-losing severity or not. Consequences of harassment remains a highly contentious issue.

The intern says she trusted the commission to look after her; instead, she felt the complaints process and the attempts to gag her became all about “protecting the organisation”.

If that’s what happened it is of concern that the Human Rights Commission is gagging the victim to protect their reputation.

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

It is alarming that the Commission responsible for dealing with unlawful discrimination and racial or sexual harassment can’t deal with their own internal cases adequately.

The allegation:

…one Friday night at a farewell party for a colleague, after work hours at a private venue. As the night wore on, her colleagues left and she planned to head home herself. Only she and Stutter remained.

At this point, Stutter began dancing with her, before advancing on her without her consent and groping her breasts and private parts, she said, despite her trying to push his hands away.

“I felt it was so severe that it was completely unacceptable and inappropriate.”

She told Stutter she needed to leave and he walked her out of the venue. She got in an Uber and left.

The aftermath and mediation:

“I sent him an email later that night, just to let him know that it wasn’t OK and he should have asked permission to dance with me, to do anything with me,” she said.

She felt Stutter’s return email was “not an adequate response”. She considered laying a complaint with police, but instead reported the incident to her immediate boss the following Monday. She was confident the commission would address it.

But a mediation demonstrated there was no specific policy to deal with the incident.

That’s surprising. Perhaps the thought that harassment policies were just for other organisations.

The result of the mediation was that Stutter sent her 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.

“I would have hoped to see there was some distinction drawn at some point, where something like this would be handled differently to someone just making an inappropriate comment.”

She added there should have been increased transparency around the matter. “The fact there is so much emphasis on confidentiality in their policies can make it really isolating.

“It wasn’t until the complaint got to the highest level that I felt it wasn’t so much about me any more, it was about protecting the organisation, and them hitting all the right points that they had to hit legally. Ultimately I felt it came down to making sure they could move on as an organisation.”

The Commission response:

Chief executive Cynthia Brophy said the organisation was reviewing its internal processes for dealing with sexual harassment and “if there is anything we can improve on we are keen to make sure this happens”.

“I have a high degree of trust and confidence in the professionalism of all of our staff and can confirm that there is no current complaint outstanding against anyone in the Human Rights Commission.”

That sounds like sweeping under the Commission carpet. And it isn’t a one off incident:

The complaint against Stutter isn’t the only sexual harassment complaint against the commission’s staff in the past five years.

Figures released to Stuff under the Official Information Act showed the organisation had investigated three sexual harassment complaints against three separate staff members dating back to 2013.

Each of the complaints progressed to an investigation, with Stutter’s the only case that resulted in disciplinary action. Two employees resigned before their investigations were completed.

That suggests (but doesn’t confirm) three legitimate complaints.

It is understood the complaint against Stutter was dealt with exclusively by Brophy and human resources, and none of the organisation’s four commissioners were aware of it until the intern had left.

Chief commissioner David Rutherford said, “the Human Rights Commission takes this matter very seriously”.

“It is an employment matter requiring us to respect all of the rights of our employees. We have confidence in how our chief executive is dealing with this matter.”

It was an employment matter, but it is more than that for the Human Rights Commission. If they can’t deal adequately with internal complaints how can the be trusted to deal with complaints reported to them to deal with, their core function?

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24 Comments

  1. duperez

     /  February 11, 2018

    It’s all beyond me.
    Rewind to the beginning: “He should have asked permission to dance with me.”
    Does this signal the re-emergence of dance cards? Does it mean as a bureaucrat, simply to dance, he should have forwarded an application in triplicate to dance?

    Further, does the way this has panned out mean that all organisations should have policies covering all possibilities, all contingencies for any possible human behaviour? Hire a consultant to do the paperwork, someone called Justin Case?

    I’m not trying to minimise the distress of the woman or ignore it but reflecting on how minute by minute ordinary human interactions can be put under a microscope, in different worlds, at different times, by different people, put on ultra slow mo and analysed endlessly.

    Maybe someone in a fraud case, when events have led to bad outcome,s will say, “She should have asked permission to talk to me.”

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  February 11, 2018

      Did anyone else note the large photo of a woman drooping dejectedly on a chair, victimhood in every line ?

      Reply
  2. Corky

     /  February 11, 2018

    Ah, like I have said before: political correctness eventually meets political correctness…and reality.

    The Human Rights Commission, along with the Racial Relations Office, need to be disestablished. Not only are they wasting taxpayer money, they are an embarrassment in both word and deed for our great nation.

    Reply
  3. Alan Wilkinson

     /  February 11, 2018

    He danced with her? I thought it took two to tango?

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  February 11, 2018

      And why were they the last two there? Fishy story.

      Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  February 11, 2018

      Stutter began dancing with her, before advancing on her without her consent

      If you dance with someone that is surely a likely progression. Especially if you are the last two people there. Stutter seems fairly young from his photo which adds to the likelihood. Not sure what was in this intern’s head but running to the media with her story suggests a mess as does even wanting to be an intern to the HRC.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  February 11, 2018

        It was also at a private venue, not in the office, which may well explain why there was nothing in place to deal with it.

        What if they had met at someone’s house during a party ?

        Reply
  4. Blazer

     /  February 11, 2018

    so its the dancing that bothered her…’advancing on her without her consent and groping her breasts and private parts, she said, despite her trying to push his hands away.’

    Reply
    • PDB

       /  February 11, 2018

      We have only heard her side of the story. For all we know he only admitted dancing with her without ‘permission’ and was punished for that.

      ““I sent him an email later that night, just to let him know that it wasn’t OK and he should have asked permission to dance with me, to do anything with me”

      If he groped her breasts and private parts why didn’t she specifically mention that in her email to him (one would think that rather disturbing & the worst of his actions if true) but instead made a point of mentioning not having permission to dance with her?

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  February 11, 2018

        Permission to dance is a bit odd. Well, there’s ‘May I have this dance ?’ at a formal dance. I suppose that someone would ask if one wanted to dance.

        If his hands did begin to wander, it was up to her to stop this, because a groper isn’t likely to. Walk away. Make a loud fuss. Tread hard on his instep. The last is an oldie but a goodie-anyone who’s had their foot trodden on, especially by a high heel, will know that it HURTS. I once had someone lurch back in a bus and tread hard on my instep with a high heel, and I thought that she’d broken a bone in my foot. She hadn’t, but it hurt like buggery for a long time. The Korean government person who advised this for gropers was right.

        The man has had disciplinary action taken. I don’t know what else could happen, He has also had his name published. If it happened as she said, it would be horrible, but he’s been punished.

        Reply
  5. We must immediately ban ballroom dancing.
    Or wee snowdrop women from the floor.
    Then they’d have to find other excuses for their clams

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  February 11, 2018

      their…’clams’..indeed ….

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  February 11, 2018

        George, we could say that only dancing in the manner of the original Viennese waltz be allowed.

        This was done with the dancers hands behind their heads, and was a test of skill-it is very difficult to keep exactly in step with no contact-and had nothing to do with prudery.i have read that it is marvellous to watch when people who can do this do it.

        But the hands behind the head rule could be one way of avoiding accusations, even if it ruined the actual dancing.

        Oh, why not go the whole hog and say hands behind heads whenever two people are anywhere near each other ?

        Reply
  6. David

     /  February 11, 2018

    With only one side of the story its hard to make a call. My wife was a bit more brutal on the lady, she stayed behind, she danced with him, he made advances and was re buffed and that should have been the end of it like has happened millions of times since day dot.
    It does seem like the bloke got the wrong end of the stick and chanced his arm maybe because he genuinely fancied her and after some liquid courage stuffed it up…badly.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  February 11, 2018

      I agree with your wife and query why anonymous accusations are printed by the media.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  February 11, 2018

        I agree about the anonymous allegations against men (usually men) who are named being printed. What does it achieve ?

        The young woman trusted the organisation to take care of her.Yes, to some extent, but not after hours. She is perpetuating the woman as helpless victim cliche, like the woman some years ago who went to a co-worker’s house for lunch, had a pass made and blamed the company for this. I have a feeling that they were found to be liable.

        How long before the PDT Bros arrive ?

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  February 11, 2018

          Not long 😀

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  February 11, 2018

            I suspect that the sad sack PDTs would downtick me if I said that I’d won $20,000,000 on Lotto and was giving the YNZ regulars $1,000,000 each as a present, Pathetic and spiteful creatures that they are.

            Reply
  7. Joy

     /  February 11, 2018

    Always hard to comment when you are not privy to all the facts.

    Im unclear why you would expect any professional behaviour at a farewell event after hours at a private venue for a work colleague. Stick to morning tea farewells.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  February 11, 2018

      Yes. It wasn’t the workplace and it wasn’t a conference or anything like that. I don’t see how she could reasonably expect HRC to protect her from a lunge when she was alone with the man-what could they do ? (that is assuming that it happened as she said it did, of course)

      I wonder if she was trying to join the Me Too brigade.

      He has had his name broadcast, has had to undergo anti-harassment counselling and is under threat of losing his job-what more does this girl want ?

      Reply

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