How Amy Taeuber's dream job at Seven became a nightmare

Seven has denied sacking television journalist Amy Taeuber because she lodged a sexual harassment complaint against a male colleague, claiming in a statement issued on Tuesday afternoon that her dismissal was primarily because of a "breach of contract" relating to two websites that made fun of Seven content and personalities.

The network was responding to a damning audio recording aired on the ABC's 7.30 program on Monday night, in which a network HR manager is heard to put Ms Taeuber on indefinite leave while an investigation is carried out into complaints levelled against her.

The then 27-year-old cadet journalist was told at the meeting in May 2016 to hand over her phone and ID card, and was not permitted to log out of her computer or off her private accounts, including Facebook, before it was seized by the company.

She never returned to work, and on July 5 was informed that the claims against her had been substantiated and as a result her employment was terminated.

Ms Taeuber, who was employed by Seven's Adelaide news department, alleged in a wrongful dismissal suit brought against Seven in October 2016 that she had been dismissed because she complained about the behaviour of Rodney Lohse, a senior reporter on Today Tonight.

The parties reached a confidential out-of-court settlement in February.

In documents lodged in the Federal Circuit Court in Adelaide, Ms Taeuber claimed that in March 2016 she was standing in the office talking with her sister Sophie, who was then employed at Seven on a freelance basis, and Today Tonight host Rosanna Mangiarelli when Mr Lohse approached and made "repeated unwanted comments" regarding Amy, who is a triplet.

Mr Lohse's comments were "offensive and humiliating", the documents claimed. Specifically, he said "that one in three women are lesbians, therefore (Amy) must be a lesbian as she is a triplet".

That incident did not occur in isolation, according to Amy's mother, Linda, and sister, Kate. To 7.30 they claimed Lohse had frequently compared the sisters' on-air appearance, and had observed that 27 was "over the hill" for a woman on TV.

It wasn't until early April 2016 that Amy Taeuber complained about Mr Lohse's behaviour, but shortly after she did, she alleged, she became the target of a "retaliatory" investigation in which colleagues were asked to "dig up dirt" on her by trawling through her social media and email accounts.

On Monday, 7.30's Louise Milligan claimed she had spoken to former Seven staffers who corroborated that claim.

"Former Seven Network employees told 7.30 that what happened to Amy Taeuber was part of a systemic culture at the network," Ms Milligan said.

"Trawling through emails to construct a misleading case was something the former employees said they regularly did to get rid of staff, and was something they felt enormously guilty about."

On May 17, 2016, Ms Taeuber was called into a meeting with her boss, Graham Archer. Her chief of staff, Lesley Johns, was by her side for support. But in the recording aired on Monday night - made by Ms Taeuber on her phone, in order to "protect her legal rights", according to 7.30 - Seven's HR manager Cherilynne Kemp, speaking via phone link from Melbourne, can be heard ordering Ms Johns from the room.

"I'm afraid it's not appropriate for Lesley to be in the room at this point," Ms Kemp said. "We're not having a meeting that needs a support person, so, Lesley, I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to depart."

"OK. It's really disappointing," said Ms Johns. "She's a cadet who's ..."

"Lesley, if you want to talk to me about this matter, we can do this at another time but it's not appropriate at this stage," Ms Kemp replied, shutting the matter down.

Ms Taeuber was then handed a list of written allegations claiming she was directly involved in two "offending" sites, including a Facebook page dedicated to MKR memes, that "contained disparaging and offensive comments directed towards Seven, its employees and contestants".

Those sites were created by the third Taeuber sister, Kate. Amy and Sophie claimed they had nothing to do with them.

In the meeting, Amy was also accused of bullying a fellow cadet, who was not named but is believed to be Peter Fegan. It is understood Mr Fegan never lodged a complaint and still thinks of Ms Taeuber as a friend.

Ms Taeuber's sister Sophie was also suspended over the website issue, and after five weeks without pay from Seven decided to seek employment elsewhere.

Amy and Sophie now run Adelaide public relations company the PR Bible together.

In a statement issued on Tuesday afternoon, Seven's parent company SevenWest said Amy Taeuber "was not sacked because she made a complaint about anyone", but was dismissed following "an investigation into alleged breaches" of her employment contract.

The company said "we reject completely the claim we do not act fairly and supportively at all times with members of our staff". It claimed to be "surprised" by the airing of the audio on 7.30 "six months after the signing of a mutual agreement and settlement".

It added that Mr Lohse had issued a "public apology" over the incident, and has since been "transferred to another newsroom". Mr Lohse was unavailable for comment.

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This story How Amy Taeuber's dream job at Seven became a nightmare first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.