Conciliations - sexual harassment

    Employment

    Café worker sexually harassed (August 2015)
    A woman who worked in a café made a complaint of sexual harassment and age discrimination against her employer. She said that he bought her a watch for her birthday two weeks after she started work, which she felt was inappropriate given that she hardly knew him.

    She said he went on to make numerous advances, repeatedly inviting her out for drinks and touching her behind. At one point the two were in his car after picking up supplies for the café and he grabbed her arm and forcibly tried to kiss her. She provided statements from several witnesses confirming these events.

    The complainant also alleged that her employer kept cutting her shifts in favour of younger staff members who were less costly, and eventually dismissed her.

    The employer denied any impropriety, conceding only that he had given her a watch on her birthday and that the two mutually flirted on occasion. He said that the woman’s dismissal was not due to her age, but because of  her abrupt communication style, unprofessional emails and messages to colleagues, and ill treatment of kitchen staff.

    The complaint was settled at conciliation when the employer agreed to pay the complainant $9,000 as part of a deed of release.​

    Disability and sexual discrimination at abattoir (August 2015) 

    A young man who stutters made a complaint of discrimination against the employees and management of the abattoir where he worked. He alleged that a colleague called him abusive names and on one occasion punched him in the eye.

    The complainant said that his concerns were not addressed when he informed management about the harassment, and they did not believe him when he told them about the assault.

    The complainant then took out an apprehended personal violence order (APVO) against his colleague. He said that after this, other staff members  began calling him insulting names, especially relating to their belief that he was homosexual. They also made disparaging remarks about his sister, who has a disability, and accused him of touching others’ behinds. He also alleged that his work boots had been urinated in.

    Three weeks after taking out the APVO, the complainant was dismissed. He was told by management that they had received complaints about his behaviour.

    The employer denied receiving any complaints from the employee about the abuse. They said that he was dismissed for bullying, harassing and acting inappropriately towards his colleagues, as well as for breaching hygiene and work and safety standards. They provided written statements from his colleagues describing his inappropriate behaviour. 

    The complainant sought financial recompense and a change in the workplace culture at the abattoir, including a channel for independent complaint management. The complaint was settled prior to conciliation with the  employer agreeing to pay the complainant $5,000 as a lump sum.​

    Offers of sex (Nov 2014)

    A woman who works as an administration officer complained that she was sexually harassed by a co-worker. She said his conduct included comments such as: ‘If you’re not getting any sex from your husband, I am more than happy to fill that need,’ and ‘you have no need to have low self-esteem, you have a hot ass and tits and you are way too hard on yourself’.  

    The woman said that the co-worker also made numerous offers of sex and stalked her, and when she complained about this, the employer failed to take action to prevent the behaviour.

    The complaint was resolved at conciliation when the complainant accepted a payment and an assurance the alleged perpetrator would not be returning to work with the complainant if the allegations were sustained as a result of the respondent’s internal investigation.

    Sexual innuendo (Sept 2014)

    A woman who worked in IT support for a large company made a complaint of sexual harassment. She was the only woman in her section and she said that her colleagues made comments with sexual innuendo which she found offensive.

    She had complained to her manager but the behaviour recurred. She was moved to another area, which she said she did not want. She said that she was also discriminated against on the basis of carer’s responsibilities as she was not allowed to work from home while other employees were.

    She also alleged that she was also subjected to sex discrimination when she sent a text to the female human resources manager about having to go home early due to menstrual problems, and received a text back that implied that her explanation was unreasonable.

    The employer said that they had spoken to the people involved after the first incident and the woman had asked to be moved to another area if she believed the harassment was continuing.

    They denied they had discriminated against her and said that there were problems with her performance, including complaints from clients that they would not work with her. They said they believed she was stressed about the performance issues and she was regularly late, which her colleagues resented. They said she had worked at home more frequently than any other staff member.

    The complainant said that she did not feel should continue to work for the company. The complaint was therefore resolved by an agreement that the employer would pay her three months pay in exchange for her resignation. 

    Sleazy contractor

    A woman complained that its IT contractor behaved in a ‘sleazy’ manner towards her and the other women working in the office. She said the contractor would often position himself so she felt trapped, blocking her within an area in extremely close proximity. He would also got down on his knees without warning and lean over her and force himself into her personal space. On one occasion he bent down as he was walking past and leant into her with his head about eight centimetres from her lap.

    The woman also alleged that her employer victimised her when she complained about the contractor’s conduct and was told she should apologise to him. She felt she had no option but to resign because of her employer’s lack of support.

    The employer said it had taken the matter seriously and had investigated the complaint, and the contractor had vehemently denied the allegations. The employer denied that the woman was told that she should apologise to the contractor and said there was no need for the woman to have resigned. The complainant accepted a payment of $3,500.00 in settlement of her complaint.

    Harassed by boss at conference

    The complainant went to a conference with her boss. He took her out to dinner and told her stories of his infidelity. During the night, he tried the door to her room. In the morning he hugged her from behind in his underwear. She told him that she was not interested in him.

    After that time her boss began to tell her that her part of the business was not going as well as it should. He would not replace staff if they were sick and he began to ridicule the complainant in front of other staff and customers. He yelled at her in front of other staff. He said that she was not strong enough to do the job because she was a woman.

    The complainant was then injured during the course of her employment and went on workers compensation. Her boss tried to get her to come back to work while she was certified unfit. At conciliation the complainant said that she did not want to go back to work, but it was important to her that all the staff of the organisation were trained in anti-discrimination.

    The parties agreed to a financial settlement in conjunction with the complainant’s resignation. The respondent also agreed to provide anti-discrimination training for all staff in a number of businesses in which he had an interest.

    Harassed by manager

    A woman who worked for a large electronics company lodged a complaint of sexual harassment, saying that her manager made jokes and sexual comments, and touched her rear when he was leaving.  This behaviour continued after she made it clear that she wanted him to stop, and eventually she resigned.

    The employer denied that she had been harassed and said that the touching incident she described could not have occurred because it was an open-plan office and there were no witnesses. They also alleged that she was planning to leave anyway. The complainant said that her co-workers may have been to afraid to become involved, also the incident may not have been in their line of sight.

    The complaint was settled when the employer agreed to pay her $6,000 and both the manager and the employer agreed to provide her with a statement of regret.

    Unwelcome initiation rite

    A young male apprentice made a complaint of sexual harassment after he was subjected to an initiation which involved being held face down by his co-workers and having car grease applied to his rear. He had been bullied previously by the same people but that had not been of a sexual nature.

    After the incident, the man had lodged a complaint with his employer and gone on stress leave. The employer asked several of the perpetrators to resign and another, who was employed by a third party, was transferred out of the company. However the young man was too upset to go back to work and eventually resigned.

    In conciliation, all parties agreed on what had occurred but the company argued that it did not constitute sexual harassment. However, both parties agreed they did not wish to pursue the issue at the Administrative Decisions Tribunal.

    The complainant explained that he had been traumatised by the incident and now felt uncomfortable being physically close other people, including his family. The complaint was settled when the company agreed to pay him $30,000

    Harassed and victimised

    A woman complained that during a work lunch her male co-worker had played a video clip on his mobile phone that contained strong sexual references. She said that he also made comments about her physique, asked her personal questions of a sexual nature, and on one occasion had touched her body, which humiliated her and made her feel extremely uncomfortable. The woman had complained to the company’s management but was not satisfied with their response.

    The man denied sexual harassment or touching the woman in the way she described. The company told the Board that it conducted an investigation into the incidents, but concluded that the man’s actions were not calculated or intended to be offensive. It provided details of its code of conduct, which was designed to prevent harassment and discrimination in the workplace. After discussions with the woman, the company moved her to a different work location so she would not come into contact with the male co-worker again.

    Following these incidents, the woman complained that she was victimised because she had made a complaint to the Board. She said she was required to work directly in front of the manager’s office, then moved from place to place. She was required to share a desk, which was not the company’s usual practice, and she did not always have access to a computer and phone, which she needed to perform her job.

    At conciliation about this complaint, both the company and the co-worker apologised to the woman, and she received a financial settlement. The company also agreed it would ensure that the woman would be provided with the resources she needed to perform her work in the future.

    Brought in men's magazines

    The complainant, who worked for a large public organisation, said that her co-worker talked about women in a derogatory way and brought in men’s magazines that he knew would upset her. She had complained to her manager at the site, but she felt that he dismissed her grievances.

    The complaint was settled when the organisation agreed that it would ensure that the man would refrain from the behaviour she found offensive, and would send him to training on harassment and bullying. In addition, the site manager was to attend training on managing harassment and bullying issues.

    The organisation also agreed that human resources staff would review the situation every month for the first three months following the settlement and attend team meetings for the next 12 months. They also agreed to work with the complainant on guidelines for workplace behaviour.

    The woman was concerned about being victimised following the complaint so it was specifically agreed that that she would not be moved to a different work site, and that her manager would document the allocation policy for overtime to avoid any perception of unfair treatment.

    Sacked after harassment complaint

    The complainant was a young woman who worked part-time for a provider of professional services in the country while a student. She alleged that an older male co-worker sexually harassed her by rubbing himself up against her while they were working unsupervised out of doors.

    She complained to the owner of the business, who accepted her allegation and reprimanded the man involved. However very soon afterwards the woman’s employment was terminated. The perpetrator continued to work for the company for some time after she left.

    Her employer said that they had done everything that they needed to do about her sexual harassment complaint, and her termination related to work performance rather than the complaint. The complaint was settled following discussions with the Board about liability in cases of sexual harassment, after which the employer agreed to pay the woman $2,000.

    Sexual harassment subject to interpretation

    The complainant worked as an assistant at a plant nursery and made a complaint of sexual harassment and sex discrimination after a male co-worker picked on her and made a number of comments including ‘you’re butch, you can lift that up’.

    The woman had initially complained to the management of the nursery but she said that they would not take action because the man was 'like that with everyone', and there weren’t enough grounds for a complaint of sexual harassment. The employer asked the man to apologise, which he did, but the woman didn’t feel that was sufficient as she still felt intimidated by him.

    The woman asked the Board to write to her employer explaining that sexual harassment can be subject to interpretation and that the man’s behaviour could be offensive to her. The man then wrote to her and acknowledged to her satisfaction that this could be the case. His behaviour in the workplace also altered. 

    Explicit conversation

    An 18-year-old man who worked as a kitchen hand in a restaurant went to his boss’s home one evening to drop off some tea towels, and was invited to stay for a drink. He said his boss turned the conversation to sexual matters and began to discuss his homosexuality with explicit details of sexual acts he had performed. The complaint was resolved when the man accepted a payment of $2,000.

    Kissed on back of neck

    A woman worked for a registered club in a clerical position. She allege that the club’s president grabbed her from behind, wrapped his arms around her waist, and kissed her on the back of the neck. She said this was not the first time but on this occasion she felt he had gone too far. The president denied the conduct, although he admitted to touching the woman by placing his arms on her shoulders. The woman did not return to work following the incident and ultimately resigned. The complaint was resolved when the woman accepted a payment of $10,000 in settlement.

    Propositioned after social relationship

    A woman worked as a casual kitchen hand. She alleged that she was sexually harassed by a chef when he continually propositioned her to form a relationship with him, both in the workplace and in her home. The woman acknowledged that she had formed a social relationship outside the workplace with the chef, but said that she wanted this to remain platonic. She alleged that after she rejected his advances she was not offered any further work. The complaint was resolved when the woman accepted a payment of $3,000.

    Sexual references and comments

    A woman worked for a transport provider and was one of only two women working in fleet quality control. She alleged that she was sexually harassed by the men in the area, including sexual references and comments about her body. The woman made an internal complaint and the company investigated it, but she wasn’t satisfied with the outcome as the men denied that anything had happened.

    A second investigation still did not produce results and she went on extended sick leave and made a complaint of victimisation to the Board (by this time the original incidents were outside the Board’s 12-month time limit).

    Once the Board was involved, witnesses were found who supported the woman’s claims. A representative of the company agreed that they could have done more to support the woman and investigate her claim. The woman initially wanted compensation, but decided that the most important thing was to get her job back. The complaint was resolved at the Board when the company agreed to retrain the woman to work in another division, as it would have been difficult for her to return to her previous position.

    Procedures changes after sexual rejection

    A woman worked at a sporting club and developed a social friendship with the manager. She made a complaint of sexual harassment after the manager implemented more rigorous financial procedures and she felt he was victimising her because she would not have a sexual relationship with him. The woman initially made an internal complaint, went on workers’ compensation, complained to the police and finally complained to the Board.

    The manager said he had changed the procedures because there had been financial irregularities, not because he was victimising the woman. However, the club conceded that there had been some flirtation between the two, and the situation was unclear. The woman initially wanted to go straight to the Administrative Decisions Tribunal and to receive the maximum amount of compensation. However, the Board recommended conciliation as it felt resolution was possible. The complaint was eventually resolved when the club agreed to pay the woman $16,000.

    Inappropriate conversation in adult store

    A woman worked as the manager of an adult store. She alleged that the owner of the store told her that she had beautiful eyes; told her about his extramarital affairs; talked about erectile dysfunction and how he would react if afflicted by the condition; encouraged her to stay overnight on a business trip; made references to the size of his penis; and interacted with another staff member in a sexual manner in front of her. The complaint was settled when the woman accepted a payment of $4,200.

    Pornographic images on computer

    A woman was employed as a project manager. She alleged that her employer and her immediate supervisor sexually harassed her when she discovered hundreds of pornographic images in files on a personal computer that was provided to her on loan. The woman accepted a payment of $4,000 in settlement of her complaint.

    Temporary employee harassed

    A young woman who was a temporary employee in a small business alleged that her employer had sexually harassed her by touching her and making suggestive remarks. She had spoken with a more senior woman in the company about the problem but nothing had changed.

    The employer denied the allegations, but accepted that the complaint needed to be resolved. At conciliation, he agreed to provide a statement of regret and to pay $2,000 – $1,000 to the woman and $500 to each of two charities of her choice. This satisfied the woman because she was concerned for other women who would work at the company in the future.

    Harassed at business in owner's home

    A woman was an accounts manager for a small business that operated out of the owner’s home. She alleged that she was sexually harassed by a number of the directors of the company, who did things like appearing where she was working wearing only a towel, making comments about her clothing, kissing her on the lips and talking about sex. She eventually resigned and got another job, but at a lower rate of pay.

    The employer did not deny the allegations, but disputed some details and alleged that the woman had invited a level of informality by bringing personal issues into the workplace. The complaint was resolved when the employer agreed to pay the woman $5,000.

    Suggestive meal

    A man who was employed as a reception clerk in the hospitality industry complained that a co-worker prepared a meal for him which consisted of a sausage and two cherry tomatoes arranged to resemble male genitalia, and also pinched him on the buttocks. The co-worker admitted to the conduct but said that the man’s prior actions had led him to believe it would not be unwelcome, as the complainant had engaged in conduct of a sexual nature towards the co-worker and other employees on numerous occasions.

    The employer did not have a sexual harassment policy at the time of the incidents. The complaint was resolved when the employer and the individual agreed to provide the man with statements of regret, a statement of service, and $5,000, and the man agreed to vacate the premises of the employer where he was still residing. The parties also agreed that the employer would implement a sexual harassment policy and train all its staff.

    Offensive pictures and comments

    A young woman worked as a waitress in a hotel. She alleged that after she injured her back at work and was off for two weeks, she was given less work and was treated unfairly over an error at the money till. She also alleged that she was subjected offensive pictures, comments about her sex life, unwanted touching and requests for sexual favours. When she reported this, no action was taken, and she was advised to fit in and not make an issue of it. Eventually she resigned and lodged a complaint of sexual harassment and disability discrimination.

    The employer denied the allegations and said that they had followed proper procedure in all their dealings with the woman. The matter was settled when the employer agreed to pay the woman $5,000, develop a policy on harassment and discrimination-related issues and make sure staff were aware of this policy.

    Sexual comments

    A woman of African descent worked in a shop in a country town. She alleged that the employer harassed her in a number of ways, making sexual comments, negative remarks about a relative who was homosexual, and race-based remarks, for example about her ‘carrying pots on her head’. Eventually the employer dismissed her, saying that there was no longer enough business to continue employing her. The matter was resolved when the woman accepted an apology from the employer.

    Sexually harassed and then complaint not dealt with

    A young woman who was employed in a clerical position complained that she was directed to work for a new boss who asked her to massage his shoulders, and when she refused, he became aggressive towards her and threatened her employment. She said that when she complained to a senior manager, he was indifferent to her concerns and advised her she could take up a casual position, which was supervised by the alleged harasser. She said she was forced to resign and seek other work as a result of the treatment, and was unemployed for three months.

    The complaint was resolved at the Board when the woman accepted a personal apology from the company’s CEO, a statement of service and a payment of $1,500 in settlement.

    Questions about sex life

    A young man who worked in a factory was harassed by his supervisor, who kept on asking him about his sex life and calling him a ‘poofter’. The young man tried to sort out the problem by talking to his manager, but the situation grew worse. After the Board investigated the complaint, the man was satisfied with the factory owner talking to staff members and telling them that harassment wouldn’t be tolerated in the work place.

    Bombarded with cards, flowers and gifts

    A woman who worked in an office complained that a co-worker asked her out, but would not take no for an answer and bombarded her with cards, flowers and gifts. The company was a small business, which had grown larger and had not implemented suitable procedures for dealing with such issues.

    At conciliation, the employer agreed to pay financial compensation to the woman, to train all staff on discrimination and harassment issues and to introduce a grievance policy. The co-worker admitted that he had behaved inappropriately and apologised. He also agreed to pay financial compensation to the woman.

    Undue scrutiny after harassment complaint

    A woman worked for a small business complained that the owner subjected her to touching and leering. She said that when she complained to the owner, she was subjected to undue scrutiny of her work performance and was ultimately dismissed. The business owner denied that the behaviour was sexual, and said that the woman’s work performance had been lacking all along, and it was just coincidence that action was taken after she complained.

    The complaint was settled when the employer agreed to pay financial compensation to the woman, to send a member of staff to training on how to prevent discrimination and harassment, and to implement policies and procedures to deal with discrimination and harassment issues.

    Sexual banter became personal

    A young woman lodged a complaint of sexual harassment against her former employer. She admitted that there had been a fair amount of general sexual banter and comments in the office that she had tolerated, but she became uncomfortable when the comments made by her manager were directed to her personally in an isolated situation. The manager did not deny making the comments. The matter was settled by financial compensation to cover some of the wages the woman lost before she found other employment.

    Touching considered inappropriate

    A woman had been working as a sales person in the auto industry. She alleged that her manager had touched her inappropriately after yelling at her and using abusive language because he believed she had made a mistake. The manager agreed that he had touched her on the arm in an effort to console her when she was upset. He denied that there was any sexual nature to the touching. At conciliation, the company agreed to pay the woman $2,000 in settlement.

    Isolated after rejecting proposition

    A woman alleged that her supervisor propositioned her after a business/social function and then isolated her in the workforce after she rejected his proposals. She said this made it impracticable for her to continue working for him. The matter was settled when the employer agreed to pay the woman $20,000, and the woman and the employer agreed that she would leave that place of employment.

    Barrage of comments

    A young woman employed as a casual sales assistant complained that she was sexually harassed by her boss, the co-proprietor of the business. This alleged conduct included: telling the woman that he would be allocating tasks to her which required bending, so that he could enjoy watching her; commenting for days about how she looked in her new work pants; telling her that he found her attractive and couldn’t stop looking at her; telling her that he wanted her to be ‘his backup girl’ in case his girlfriend left him; and many other such comments. The complaint was resolved at conciliation when the woman accepted a statement of regret, a statement of service and $500 in settlement.

    Inappropriate comments in bar

    A woman worked as a bar person at a registered club. She alleged that a number of club patrons continually made unwelcome comments about the size of her breasts. She said that when she complained to a director about the conduct, he made similar comments. The complaint was settled following a conciliation conference when the club agreed to provide the woman with a statement of regret, train all staff, review its policies on discrimination and harassment, and to provide the woman with a payment of $5,000.

    Goods and services

    Harassed by another customer at bar

    A woman who was a regular customer at an entertainment venue alleged she was sexually harassed by another customer whilst she was drinking at the bar. A security officer was called and he undertook investigations, but this did not result in any action against the alleged harasser, and the woman was asked to leave. Although the venue believed it had acted appropriately the matter was settled for $1,000.