Ten political reporter Tegan George endured a ‘sexually hostile, demeaning and oppressive’ workplace at the network’s Canberra bureau, new court documents claim.
George lodged an updated statement of claim in her Federal Court case against Ten this week alleging her employer accepted a workplace hostile to women, she was subjected to workplace gossip and felt ’embarrassed, isolated and unsupported’.
In the statement, lodged by Maurice and Blackburn lawyer Josh Borstein, George claimed the workplace issues affected her her mental health and led to her taking leave in June 2021, which she is still on.
The documents allege the network’s political editor Peter van Onselen repeatedly tweeted about George despite knowing she was in hospital undergoing mental health treatment, though he did not mention her by name.
George claimed that van Onselen excluded her from regular informal meetings he would have over coffee with other Ten colleagues.
Van Onselen is not being sued personally but is specifically named in George’s statement of claim against Ten.
Network Ten political reporter (pictured) Tegan George is seeking unspecified damages against Network Ten
Included in the court documents is a series of tweets van Onselen exchanged with former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins in 2022, praising his colleagues in Canberra and stating he wanted to catch up with them over coffee.
George claims these tweets were pointed barbs at her exclusion from such meetings while she was in the Canberra bureau.
Higgins lashed out at van Onselen in a reply to one of his tweets suggesting they go for coffee.
‘Honestly, you’ve made your point. Enough with the coffee barbs,’ she wrote.
From 2019, when George began working in Ten’s Canberra bureau, she claims van Onselen treated her with disdain, did not return her calls and relocated her desk to flaunt his authority.
In August 2020, George emailed her colleagues to thank them for their condolences following the stillbirth of her niece.
She claims van Onselen asked other employees whether the email was a personal attack on him.
The new claims stated that in mid-February, 2020, Ten’s human resources manager Kathy Fernandez expressed concern that George would be the only woman in the bureau when another political reporter, Amber Austin-Wright, took parental leave.
George claims this was in response to concerns both she and Austin-Wright had raised about being treated unfairly in the bureau.
In the new statement of claims George says that Ten political editor Peter van Onselen has continued to torment her with tweets even as she has been on leave with mental health issues
George claims van Onselen’s tweets rubbed in the fact she was excluded from coffee meetings while in the Canberra bureau
Ten did not comment on the new claims but has repeatedly denied any bullying allegations.
In a statement in June, 2022, after George updated her statement of claim, a Ten spokesperson denied allegations.
‘In its filed defence, Network 10 has previously denied the claims of victimisation and adverse action,’ a spokesperson said.
‘Network 10 values and supports all employees. Any inference to the contrary is completely false.’
In May, 2022 the network asked for 20 of George’s claims struck out because they were ‘vague’ and ’embarrassing’.
The network denied senior editors, including van Onselen, ignored, undermined or humiliated her, and alleged George took text messages out of context.
It also denies van Onselen’s 2021 tweets referred to Ms George, and said van Onselen had offered his support, with new working conditions outlined in text messages sent to her in 2020.
Van Onselen has said he is not allowed to comment but denies the allegations.
In May, 2022 van Onselen told Daily Mail Australia: ‘I very much look forward to fully ventilating the truth about these utterly vexatious claims as soon as I’m in a position to be able to do so.’
Previously George claimed that when she complained about her workload to Ten’s executive editor Anthony Murdoch, he replied: ‘What, do you need Peter to come down here and hold your hand?’
Mr Mudoch allegedly said George needed ‘to sort this out and apologise because Peter does not give a shit’ about how she was feeling, according to the court documents.
According to the new claims George sought the advice of Ten’s national affairs editor Hugh Riminton on some of the exchanges she had with Mr Murdoch and van Onselen.
George sought advice from Ten’s national affairs editor Hugh Riminton (pictured right) over her alleged poor treatment
Riminton allegedly told her that he had previously pulled Mr Murdoch up on ‘speaking inappropriately to women’ and that George was doing a good job.
The new documents also contain claims that Ten’s network editor of news content, Ross Dagan, in a meeting with George on September 9, 2020, told her she ‘had taken a lot of sick leave’ and he wanted to know if she was ‘genuinely sick’ or just ‘unhappy’.
George said she was suffering from a ‘genuine illness’, the court documents claimed.
In earlier filings George said she had been hounded out of Ten after overhearing sexist remarks about about fellow reporter Stela Todorovic.
George reported the conversation but refused to file a complaint, sparking a showdown with station management which ultimately led to the lawsuit.
The case, which began in the middle of last year, is being heard by Justice Judith Katzmann.
Ten has been given until March 1 to file an amended defence.
Network Ten, van Onselen and Maurice Blackburn all declined to comment on the updated claims.