Richard Dababneh providing Q & A on 2GB discussing Employment Law – 25 October 2019
Richard Dababneh providing Q & A on the 2GB Chris Smith Afternoon Show discussing Employment Law 25 October 2019
CS – Chris Smith/RD – Richard Dababneh /C1,2,3, etc – Callers
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Read the transcript below:
CS Now what do you make of all this reporting abut former reality TV stars. They go and do the show, you know your Married at First Sights or your home improvement type shows and you know what, you come across as a bit of a, of I don’t want to be too unkind here, but you come across as someone a bit different, let’s put it like that, as a result you cop all sorts of hell on social media and as a result of that, it very seriously impacts on your mental health, it’s not a good outcome, so to what extent do reality TV producers and telecasters have to own what happens to the contestant. Let’s find out, on the line is Richard Dababneh, he’s a good man, he’s a partner at Turner Freeman Lawyers and they do advertise on this network. G’day Richard.
CS Mate, when you sign up to a reality TV show, don’t you sign up warts and all? I mean should you really expect compensation if it doesn’t go the way you’d hoped?
RD The short answer is yes. So, these articles that came out today involving this Married at First Sight star, actually followed a recent decision in the Workers Compensation Commission involving a different reality TV show, it was a House Rules contestant who was portrayed as a villain on the show and as a result of the way she was portrayed on the show, she copped a lot of online abuse and abuse by the other contestants on the show as well, so it does open this can of worms essentially for the network and for the production company because it was found that this reality TV contestant was actually a worker within the definition of the Workers Compensation Act, so along with that comes all the rights of any worker who might be injured as a result of their employment.
CS So you said they’re portrayed as , if someone is let’s say just unpleasant that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re portrayed as unpleasant does it?
RD With reality TV shows the production company has a lot of control over what is shown on the show, on the TV and by having that control they also have obligations, those obligations include protecting their workers or deemed workers in this situation from the possibility of online abuse and other types of abuse. You know, yes they might be a villain, yes they put themselves in that situation but there are still obligations on the network as an employer to do that, and this case is a very, a really good eye opener for networks and production companies out there that do these types of shows.
CS Alright, we’re talking Richard about the entertainment industry but let’s look at the service industry, someone imposes company policy that’s not well received, they cop abuse on social media and elsewhere, would that make that instance and the service industry equally actionable?
RD Well, the thing with that situation is or the difference with that situation what happened in the Married at First Sight and with the House Rules contestant is that the employer was made aware of the bullying and harassment, it wasn’t a one off situation, it wasn’t a sort of a spur of the moment type of situation, it happened for a while and they were aware that it was happening and it was brought to their attention and they failed to take any action to remedy that.
RD So it does open up another area as well, you know not only does an employer, I’ll rephrase that, not only does an employee have the right to worker’s compensation but an employer has an obligation to be proactive in preventing these type of things occurring and they’ve got an obligation to protect their employees, even if it sometimes their employees are at fault.
CS Mate as much as I’m not a massive fan of reality TV shows, I can’t help but think that if this is the future we’re gonna end up with all these shows just completely swamped in beige aren’t we?
RD Well I think they certainly have to change their ways a little bit, what they’ve been trying to do to avoid this is by contracting with these contestants and basically saying in the contracts, look this is not an employee/employer relationship but they can’t do that , it’s been found legally despite them putting those in the contracts, they can’t avoid their obligation, they can’t avoid paying compensation in situations like this, so they’re going to have to be careful in the future, you know be a bit more proactive as I said to protect the contestants. It does have also, it doesn’t just apply in reality TV situations, what this case actually brings to light is there are so many different relationships out there where people might not think they are a worker, they might be an independent contractor, but they might be deemed a worker for the purposes of the Workers Compensation Act and they will have the rights as every other worker would.
CS So I’ve got to ask you this, this will be dangerous ground but I’m going to ask you it anyway, I can hear in that laugh you were saying underneath your breath thanks for nothing, but if you’re a commentator on a radio station and comments that you utter offend or you find people disagree with and they rather enthusiastically chase you down via social media and give you all sorts of hell, in some people it could be quite an ordeal but where does that place the broadcaster?
RD Well, it’s, arguably in the same situation as channel 7 and channel 9 and the other networks and the production companies in having to protect their, you know contractor, I suppose they’re not, it’s not a traditional employee/employer relationship, they are contractors, but you know they might still have those rights and they do have to do certain things to protect those broadcasters, especially if those broadcasters have brought it to their attention, saying look this is really affecting me, you know, this constant barrage, yes I’ve said a few things, and it probably happened recently with Kyle Sandilands and other radio presenters who’ve been a bit controversial.
RD You know their job is to be controversial but a lot of the times the controversy leads to them being you know attacked online verbally, you know sometimes it goes physically, but the network has to do something, the production company has to do something to try and prevent that, to alleviate that, they certainly have obligations that would apply across the board.
CS It’s fascinating, I wonder if we would now finally be getting to a point where you know you just can’t go on social media and say whatever you like about whoever you like without consequences because we’re talking about talent here that might be copping all sorts of abuse, what we haven’t spoken about is the people who unfairly, in my view, unleash that abuse.
RD Yeah, those online trolls, as they call them, you know they can get away with a lot of things, it’s hard to pinpoint, but you know there are certain rights that people have who are attacked by you know, online trolls, if it’s been defamatory for example and you know who the person is, issuing those defamatory comments and those online trolls have to be careful as well, they’re not going to cop a defamation action.
CS Alright Richard, I always enjoy chatting to you, thanks so much mate.
RD Of course, take care.
CS Good on you, you too. Richard Dababneh, partner from Turner Freeman Lawyers who do advertise on this network.