On 27 October 2016, the National Justice Project submitted a complaint on behalf of Australian Women Without Borders to the Australian NCP, alleging that Mercer PR had breached the OECD Guidelines human rights chapter when it distributed the personal information of an alleged sexual assault victim. Mercer PR had sent an email to media outlets that included a copy of a police document revealing the woman’s identity and medical details. The distribution of her personal information had a significant impact on her. In her complaint, she sought a formal apology from Mercer PR, improved internal human rights training at Mercer PR, a review of Mercer’s internal polices to ensure it complied with the Guidelines, and compensation for the harm.
Relevant OECD Guidelines
- Chapter IV
- Chapter IV Paragraph 1
- Chapter IV Paragraph 2
- Chapter IV Paragraph 3
- Chapter IV Paragraph 4
- Chapter IV Paragraph 5
- Chapter IV Paragraph 6
In February 2018, the Australian NCP formally accepted the matter and offered the parties its good offices. Separate meetings were held with each party to discuss the matter. A facilitated joint discussion was originally agreed too, but did not go ahead as Mercer PR later withdrew its agreement to participate. Mercer PR claimed that they were not previously aware of the OECD Guidelines and did not intend to cause any harm.
The Australian NCP published its decision on 9 July 2019. The National Justice Project felt the NCP’s statement found in favour of the woman. Although Mercer PR is a very small enterprise, the Australian NCP stressed the importance for it of meeting standards the Government expects from all Australian enterprises operating overseas, including the standards set out in the OECD Guidelines. The Australian NCP encouraged Mercer PR to issue the woman a formal apology. The Australian NCP also recommended that Mercer PR’s executive undertake human rights training and incorporate the OECD Guidelines into Mercer PR’s internal operational polices and decision-making processes.
Although the complainant requested compensation for the woman, the Australian NCP asserted that, as a non-judicial mechanism, its role does not extend to making specific recommendations about financial damages.
The Australian NCP stated that it would follow up these recommendations in six months.