Repeated harassment costs cleaning employer $20,750

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Repeated harassment costs cleaning employer $20,750

A Queensland contract cleaning company has been ordered to pay $20,750 to an employee after the State’s Anti-Discrimination Tribunal found one of its principals guilty of repeated verbal and physical sexual harassment.

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A Queensland contract cleaning company has been ordered to pay $20,750 to an employee after the State’s Anti-Discrimination Tribunal found one of its principals guilty of repeated verbal and physical sexual harassment.

Background

The employee, who subcontracted her services as a cleaner, alleged her employer had sexually harassed her on a frequent basis over 12 months while they were alone together at the resort where they worked. She said this harassment was both verbal and physical.

The tribunal heard evidence that the employer’s offensive remarks ranged from saying 'keep your legs together' as a farewell comment to suggestingthey would have sex together in one of the resort’s rooms which had a mirrored ceiling. On another occasion he told her that he was not 'gettingit at home' and so if she 'wanted a bit on the side' he was available.

The tribunal also heard that he would brush past the employee in the narrow confines of the linen room and while doing so he would cause his groin to come into contact with her bottom. She said that on several occasions hecame up to her and straightened the name badge which she wore above her leftbreast. In doing so, he would deliberately bring his hand into contact withher left breast. She said after a while, she ceased wearing her name badgeto work to prevent this occurring again.

Findings

Despite the employer’s denial of the allegations, the tribunal preferred the employee’s evidence and found all the alleged incidents constituted sexual harassment. It said she put up with the sexual harassment because she needed the money – she had two young children, one of whom was sick. The tribunal said she had good reasons to want to hold down steady, reliable employment and her employer was aware of this.

The tribunal heard that towards the end of the year she started carrying a spray can of air-freshener around with her with the intention of using it asa deterrent if her employer actually tried anything physical with her as shesaid she feared he would.

The tribunal accepted her evidence that she felt embarrassed, humiliated, disgusted and stressed by the harassment and that it affected her relationships with her husband and children. It said the behaviour went onover a period of 12 months and was done in circumstances where the employerknew the employee was a 'particularly vulnerable target because of financialand emotional matters that she was subject to at the time'.

Having foundthat she suffered a significant amount of damage in this sense, it awardedher $20,750 in compensation plus costs.

See: Simpson v Boyson and Belli Park Stud Pty Ltd [2003] QADT 19 (27 October 2003).

Related:

Sample policy on workplace harassment and bullying policy

 

There are many cases on WorkplaceInfo on the issue of harassment - here is an example: 'Extreme harassment - employee ordered to pay $50,000'.

 

 

   

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