Woman's conduct to gay man could be sexual harassment

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Woman's conduct to gay man could be sexual harassment

A gay university worker has successfully appealed a finding that a female colleague did not sexually harass him by 'persistent personal invitations'.

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A gay university worker has successfully appealed a finding that a female colleague did not sexually harass him by 'persistent personal invitations'.

A University of Queensland tutorial coordinator submitted a sexual harassment complaint that a part-time tutor showed 'untoward interest' in him in 2002, telling him he had 'really nice eyes' and asking a number of times to 'go for coffee' and to the movies with her.

In an email, the coordinator explained that he did not think it was a good idea to see a movie, that he did not feel good about seeing a movie with her, that although he thought that she was probably a nice person they could not be friends, and requested her not to persist.

The female tutor sent an 'aggressive' email in response which demanded the worker 'outline for me all the reasons why you don't want to get to know me' adding 'if I wanted to "jump you" I would have done it a lot sooner than this' and 'If I wanted to make your life hell I could'.

The Federal Magistrates Court dismissed the coordinator's claim. The coordinator then appealed.

Room for argument

Judge Collier in the Federal Court cited cases where 'conduct in the nature of persistent personal invitations has, in some cases, and in conjunction with other acts, been held to constitute sexual harassment'.

'Further, it has been contemplated that aggressive conduct following a rejection could constitute harassment of a sexual nature,' Collier said.

Taking this into account, the judge allowed the coordinator's appeal, in that the evidence and arguments of both parties 'would require a full hearing'.

The judge also accepted that the University may not be liable for the tutor's conduct, as there was a question as to her employment status at the time of the alleged conduct.

The matter was remitted to the Federal Magistrates Court.

Gauci v Kennedy [2007] FCA 1051 (13 July 2007)

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