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Union report describes sexual discrimination, harassment at JB Hi-Fi

JB Hi-Fi has an “endemic culture of gender discrimination and sexual harassment” according to an investigative report released today by the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union.

According to the report, which spoke to over 200 JB Hi-Fi employees, the vast majority of workers surveyed (83 per cent) had experienced at least one form of gendered harassment during their employment: such as talk of hiring female staff based on appearance, comments about the bodies of female staff or customers, and use of gendered insults to insult female staff.

Almost half had experienced all three forms of gendered harassment listed above, and only 17 per cent had not experienced any harassment.

Inside Retail has reached out to JB Hi-Fi for a response to the report.

Over half of staff had received unwelcome advances, touching, or invitations to go on dates, while 81 per cent had caught fellow staff or customers staring or leering at them.

“These responses are cause for alarm and immediate action,” RAFFWU said in the report.

“Nearly a quarter of respondents had received sexually explicit emails or messages and almost 20 per cent of responses had experienced requests for sex.”

Around 69 per cent of female employees said they had experienced a panic attack, or felt physically distressed, based on their interactions with a male, while in total 53 per cent of all workers experienced this.

The workplace structure at the electronics company also seems to follow gendered perceptions according to the responses, with female staff members in general expected to help out at the counter when busy, undertake management duties without being paid management rates (such as having access to a manager’s pin), and to do more operational tasks and odd jobs than male staff members are.

“These responses indicate a substantial disconnect between the experiences in the workplace and the value given to the contribution and work of women,” the report said.

“Respondents had lost faith and trust in JB Hi-Fi dealing with gender based discrimination. Considering the survey responses this is unsurprising.”

A RAFFWU spokesperson confirmed with Inside Retail that they had made recommendations to JB Hi-Fi following the release of the report, but that the business hadn’t been made aware of the report prior to its release.

The report comes months after a report in The Age, which spoke to RAFFWU, called the company a ‘boys club’ that did little to support female workers.

The business told The Age at the time that it is committed to ensuring all team members are respected, and that it is an inclusive and welcoming workplace.

JB Hi-Fi encourages staff to utilise the Stopline Whistleblower Hotline, which allows “any employee, supplier or customer to anonymously report suspected or actual wrongdoing in our clients’ businesses”.

In a report in the AFR in December 2020, a JB Hi-Fi staff member was allegedly warned against wearing a facemask with union-branded logos.

And, after being warned about the mask, the staff member was contacted by an area manager, and a human resources representative, who warned the staff member failure to remove the mask could result in disciplinary action.

According to the report, the business’ uniform policy doesn’t preclude staff from wearing branded clothing. RAFFWU secretary Josh Cullinan told the AFR the business’ actions was “an affront to the rights of our members to participate in union campaigns,” and said JB was engaging in union busting.

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