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‘Deeply disturbing’ homophobic bullying revealed at Rio Tinto

LGBTIQA+ employees at one of Australia’s mining giants have reported shocking rates of bullying and harassment.

A new report released by Rio Tinto shows “significantly elevated rates of bullying, sexual harassment, and racism” affecting LGBTIQA+ workers.

Chief executive Jakob Stausholm offered a “heartfelt apology” to all employees who had been affected by the “deeply disturbing” behaviour in the workplace.

The report is based on over 100 group discussion sessions, 85 individual meetings, and a survey of 10,000 Rio Tinto employees around the world, The Guardian has reported.

“Overall, [employee] comments suggest that the same hyper-masculine norms and culture that can fuel everyday sexism and sexual harassment can also fuel heterosexism, making the inclusion and safety of employees who identify as [LGBTIQA+] a priority in any cultural reform,” said former Australian sex discrimination commissioner Elizabeth Broderick.

Despite its poor performance, Rio Tinto is a current member of Pride in Diversity.

Bullying was described in the report as “systemic”, with almost half of all employees reporting they had been bullied at work.

Over a quarter of women in the company had experienced sexual harassment, along with nearly half of women at fly-in fly-out (fifo) work sites.

“Women at fifo worksites spoke of eating alone in their room to avoid harassment in the dining hall and the gym, of avoiding being out after dark… and of harassing and even threatening behaviour from male colleagues when they were walking to their accommodation after work,” Broderick said.

“Women also spoke of the lack of consequences when they reported these incidents.”

More than 20 women have reported an actual or attempted rape or sexual assault in the last five years.

Racism was also “rife” in the organisation, with almost 40% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers reporting racism in the last five years.

“The project revealed that [confidence to report] is not common amongst Rio Tinto employees for complex and sensitive interpersonal issues such as sexual harassment, racism, and bullying,” said Broderick.

Employees described a “culture of silence” around bullying and harassment.

Broderick’s review has recommended 26 changes to Rio Tinto’s workplace culture to improve safety for marginalised employees. 

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