Employee “tormented” by sexual harassment at work has compensation increased by $100k

Employers need to stamp out inappropriate conduct in the workplace warns specialist Employment Law firm, Aitken Legal.  This comes as a former employee of a Brisbane laundromat had compensation increased on appeal to the Industrial Court of Queensland, to $28.702.60 for economic loss and $130,000 for general and aggravated damages.  The increased compensation is $100,000 more than the original compensation order made by the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) back in March for the substantiated workplace sexual harassment and discrimination.

The employee originally reported the situation to the police who advised the employee not to return to the workplace.   The former employee then made a successful workers’ compensation claim for a psychological injury sustained as a result of her employer’s conduct.

The former employee also lodged complaints of sexual harassment, direct discrimination and victimisation, that were subject to the proceedings before the QIRC.  In March this year the QIRC accepted the complaints of sexual harassment and discrimination finding that the former laundromat employee was the “subject of escalating unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature” by her manager.

The QIRC heard that soon after the single mother and former victim of domestic violence commenced work at the laundromat, her employer began touching her bottom.  The employee was then required to walk the “perilous tightrope” of protecting herself from repeated sexual advances by her employer while not “too abruptly” rejecting her employer’s advances for fear of losing her job.  During the proceedings, the QIRC heard disturbing detail about the employer’s conduct and rejected the employer’s claim that the conduct was “simply banter” and “typical of the way they interacted at the laundromat”.

The Industrial Court in reviewing the order of compensation made by the QIRC, determined that the compensation was “manifestly inadequate”, particularly in regard to the general and aggravated damages.

Business owners and managers need to take note of the serious implications of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Aitken Legal’s Managing Director, Lisa Aitken warns employers that “sexual harassment in the workplace is an area of employment law under the spotlight with the Federal government introducing legislation in June this year in response to the Australian Human Rights Commission report, Respect@Work: National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces.  Lisa emphasises the importance for employers to keep informed about legislative changes concerning sexual harassment and the workplace as well as ensuring policies and procedures regarding this area of law are up to date and that employees have been trained on these policies.

Disclaimer: The information contained this article is general and intended as a guide only. Professional advice should be sought before applying any of the information to particular circumstances. While every reasonable care has been taken in the preparation of this update, Aitken Legal does not accept liability for any errors it may contain. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.