Employer hit with $88,000 for sexual harassment

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Employer hit with $88,000 for sexual harassment

The Anti-Discrimination Tribunal (Qld) has ordered an employer and the employer's company to pay a complainant damages in the sum of $37,902.

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The Anti-Discrimination Tribunal (Qld) has ordered an employer and the employer's company to pay a complainant damages in the sum of $37,902.17 and to pay her costs that exceeded $50,000. The complainant alleged that the employer had sexually harassed her on at least eight separate occasions. The tribunal found the allegations to be substantiated on the evidence of the complainant and her supporting witnesses as the employer failed to make an appearance in the tribunal.

Background

In July 2000 the complainant was a 30 year old woman who was married with two children. She obtained employment at the Shafston Hotel and began to work there in on 8 July 2000. The business of the hotel was conducted by the second respondent, Nicksam Pty Ltd.

The material incidents and advances, which were all vigorously resisted by the complainant included:

  • He ran his fingers through the back of her hair.
  • He told the complainant that she smelt beautiful and said that he wanted to know what perfume she was wearing.
  • He kissed the complainant. He told her that he wanted both of them to stay in his apartment and sleep together.
  • He said, 'You may not sleep with me now but you will sleep with me.' 
    He later said that he didn't want them to sleep together but wanted them to wait until they had moved in together.
  • Her colleague told her that another member of staff had said that she had allegedly given the employer oral sex in the back of her car. The complainant immediately went to confront the other member of staff who informed her that the employer had told him. She confronted the employer. She told him that she wanted to speak to him in private. Eventually he followed her outside and she related to him what she had been told. He denied having defamed her in the manner that had been described to her. Her work colleagues, who had given her the information, came outside and she repeated the allegation to them in front of the employer. The employer then told the complainant and her colleague that they were both sacked.

Sexual harassment

The tribunal found that the facts constituted a serious case of persistent sexual harassment. The employer's conduct placed the complainant in an intolerable position where it was difficult for her to appeal to any proper person in authority and where her continued employment was rendered impossible. The employer must have known this in the tribunal's view.

The tribunal awarded general damages, damages for loss of income and costs.

See: Schillert v MacKenzie and Nicksam Pty Ltd t/a Shafston Hotel [2002] QADT 18 (24 September 2002) - President Walter Sofronoff QC.

 
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