LSN and Department of Main Roads
(2000 S0042, 21 January 2002)
The applicant had lodged a grievance in 1999 about the way in which the Department had dealt with a complaint of sexual harassment made against him by a female employee of the Department. An external consultant investigated his grievance and submitted a report, but the applicant was dissatisfied with the findings. The applicant was not provided with a copy of the report, and applied under the FOI Act for all documents relating to his grievance, and to the original complaint against him. The Department contended that the matter in issue was exempt from disclosure under s.44(1) (personal affairs) or s.40(c) of the FOI Act (prejudice to the management of its staff)
The Assistant Commissioner decided that a small amount of the matter in issue qualified for exemption from disclosure to the applicant under s.44(1) of the FOI Act, and that the balance qualified for exemption under s.40(c). The grievance investigator had assured the third party witnesses that their identities, and the information they supplied, would be treated in confidence as far as possible, given that it might become necessary to put some information to the applicant for response, and that it would be necessary to give the applicant an account of the outcome of the investigation. The Assistant Commissioner held that the nature and sensitivity of the information supplied by the third party witnesses, and their apprehension over the applicant's abusive or intimidating behaviour following the initial complaint against him, supported a finding that there was a mutual understanding that the information supplied by the third party witnesses would be treated in confidence so far as possible, given the purposes for which the information was provided.
The Assistant Commissioner was satisfied that the applicant had been given sufficient information to have a proper account of the investigation of his grievance and its outcome, and noted the Department's duty of care to protect its employees from foreseeable risks of abusive or intimidating behaviour, in holding that the balance of the matter in issue was exempt under s.40(c) of the FOI Act.