Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Tony Kemp suspended over harassment

An NZRL spokesman confirmed Kemp had been stood down as general manager of high performance. Photo / File
An NZRL spokesman confirmed Kemp had been stood down as general manager of high performance. Photo / File

Former Warriors coach Tony Kemp has been suspended from his job at the New Zealand Rugby League, pending an investigation into claims of sexual harassment.

It is understood there was more than one complainant and they were working part or full time at the NZRL. The investigation, by independent experts, is expected to be concluded this week.

An NZRL spokesman confirmed Kemp had been stood down as general manager of high performance.

Chief executive Phil Holden said he was unable to comment on "an individual employment issue" but was sure the issue wouldn't affect the Kiwis' arrangements ahead of the Anzac test in less than two weeks and in World Cup year.

Kemp, who played 25 tests for the Kiwis and was a stalwart of Newcastle in the NRL, has been leading plans for the World Cup in England and France.

NZRL administration manager Carmen Taplin said Kemp had not returned to work after taking time off to coach his son's rowing team for the Maadi Cup regatta two weeks ago.

"I am worried about him and I have been trying to call him but haven't been able to reach him," she said.

She said the allegations were a shock.

"I have worked with him for years and we have been on eight tours together, staying in hotels and going to social functions, and I have seen nothing but professionalism.

"He has been amazing support for me and I am very close to him, so it is very hard to understand."

Kemp split with wife Jan last year and they sold their Coatesville home.

NZRL staff member Sash Stosic said Kemp was a good friend.

"He's always been one of the boys and men talk about their experiences and have good times, but nothing more."

Stosic said Kemp had encouraged women into the game, to promote a family-oriented culture. Kemp did not return calls yesterday.

The Human Rights Commission received 70 sexual harassment complaints in 2011 and 2012 - though it's believed that several times that many went unreported.

Last year, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner at the time, Dr Judy McGregor, said it was astounding sexual harassment continued to be a problem, given the huge amount of prevention and safety material available.

"I am mindful that the numbers who come to the commission and other bodies are only the tip of the iceberg. Women who face sexual harassment at work often simply end up leaving the organisation."

An Australian Human Rights Commission report found more than one in five women experienced sexual harassment at work but only 20 per cent made a formal complaint.

Employment law specialist Blair Edwards said he had dealt with about 20 cases in the past two years.

"It is a good idea to suspend the person who is accused or at least move them to another site away from the complainant," he said.

Edwards said sexual harassment could be any unwelcome comments or conduct of a sexual nature.

- Herald on Sunday

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