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AMP sexual harassment victim demands paper trail

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The former employee behind the AMP sexual harassment scandal has renewed her call for the wealth giant to release the full text of her complaint against senior executive Boe Pahari, as well as the inquiry report and all other documents relating to the investigation.

Julia Szlakowski, former AMP Capital institutional director, unlisted, Americas, has urged for the group to provide her with unrestricted access to the investigation report resulting from the inquiry into her 2017 complaint of sexual harassment against Mr Pahari, who then held the role of global head and managing partner, infrastructure equity, north west region.

Ms Szlakowski has also demanded the release of all documents governing the inquiry process, including the terms of reference for the investigation, any draft reports, all communications between the external investigator and the company and information regarding any alleged counselling or action taken against Mr Pahari.

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Mr Pahari stepped down from his role as chief executive of AMP Capital on Monday after Ms Szlakowski came forward and charged the group with downplaying the sexual harassment she experienced last week. 

As Mr Pahari was demoted, AMP chair David Murray and board member and John Fraser signalled their exits from the group. Mr Murray revealed a number of shareholders had not considered Mr Pahari’s promotion to AMP Capital CEO to be appropriate.

An ex-Treasury secretary, Mr Fraser was also chair of AMP Capital and he had only been appointed to the position in January, while Mr Murray, a former CBA CEO, joined the group after the departure of predecessor Catherine Brenner during the royal commission.

The leadership changes took place after AMP had agreed to release the sexual harassment investigation report under certain terms – and later on Monday it revealed the conclusion of the document, which ruled Mr Pahari had exercised “poor judgement” during an evening. 

External investigator Andrew Burns QC had found there had been three incidences of behaviour that added up to a “relatively modest breach of the AMP Workplace and Equal Opportunity Policy”. 

“This involved a senior manager who ought to have been observing a high standard of equality and diversity practice and who ought to have had a much better understanding of how his actions might be perceived by and may affect a junior colleague,” Mr Burns wrote in the report’s conclusion.

Ms Szlakowski said she wanted all of the related to be documents released to her lawyer, Maurice Blackburn principal Josh Bornstein. According to her, she has never been provided with a full copy of the investigation report. 

AMP stated that she had been provided with the conclusion of the report in 2017.

“It gives me some comfort to see that AMP has today acknowledged the seriousness of my complaint and is working to try and address the culture of the company,” Ms Szlakowski said on Monday.

“That work however still has a long way to go, and that’s why I am continuing to call for AMP to release my complaint, the findings documents and all other documents relating to the report’s commission.”

Ms Szlakowski lodged the complaint six months into her holding the position with AMP Capital, with the document said to be seven pages long, detailing a pattern of sexual harassment from December 2016 to May 2017.

Contrary to AMP and Mr Pahari’s public statements, Maurice Blackburn stated the conduct Ms Szlakowski alleged has not constituted an isolated incident of poor judgement, nor comments that could be described as uncomfortable.

In July, AMP declared the sexual harassment had been a “lower level breach” of its code of conduct and the complaint had only regarded comments made by Mr Pahari.

Mr Bornstein commented AMP had continually diminished Ms Szlakowski’s harassment and releasing the documents would demonstrate a company commitment to transparency and an equitable workplace. 

“AMP has still not publicly acknowledged that Ms Szlakowski was sexually harassed, but rather hid behind a series of weasel words,” he said. 

“There is no reason why AMP should not release the requested documents to us forthwith, particularly in light of [Monday’s] significant developments.”

AMP’s board on Monday stated that Mr Pahari’s comments and behaviour in the harassment were unacceptable, apologising to Ms Szlakowski for the distress caused at the time.

But the company retained its view that the matter had been “dealt with appropriately in 2017 and Mr Pahari was penalised accordingly”. 

AMP imposed financial and non-financial penalties on Mr Pahari at the time, however a spokesperson for the group said it would not be disclosing the amount he was charged.

 

AMP sexual harassment victim demands paper trail
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Sarah Simpkins

Sarah Simpkins

Sarah Simpkins is a journalist at Momentum Media, reporting primarily on banking, financial services and wealth. 

Prior to joining the team in 2018, Sarah worked in trade media and produced stories for a current affairs program on community radio. 

You can contact her on [email protected].

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