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Risk of victimisation may mean identity suppression​

Legal case - victimisation

Published: 23 Dec 2016

When will a court decide to suppress the identity of a complainant? A recent decision in the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal illustrates the complexities in cases of workplace harassment.​

The facts​

A person identified as CVV took legal action against his employer in the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT), claiming he was sexually harassed, discriminated against and victimised because of his imputed homosexuality. 

CVV’s workplace, United Resource Management (URM), is a waste and recycling company. It is male dominated and, according to CVV, sexual harassment, taunting and reprisals are commonplace and in some cases anonymous. He asked the Tribunal to suppress his identity for fear that the harassment would get worse if it becomes known that he has made a complaint.

The arguments​

Legal cases are usually open to the public and may be reported because ‘justice must be seen to be done’. URM objected to the suppression of CVV’s identity on the grounds that this case was no different to any other. CVV’s complaint related mainly to discrimination and placing items of a sexual nature around the workplace, and there was no evidence of violence or reprisals. URM also disputed CVV’s claim that male on male sexual harassment attracts public interest and this was an additional reason to suppress his identity.             

The decision​

The Tribunal pointed out that the employer has a duty of care to provide a safe workplace and this includes taking steps to prevent harassment which was likely to cause severe mental and emotional distress. It said there was a public interest in people being able to come to the Tribunal without the fear that this would result in even more discrimination.

In addition, CVV still works for URM and must remain in the workplace where he was harassed. The allegations were very personal, sexual harassment was allegedly  commonplace, he was distressed by not knowing who his tormentors were and there was a risk of victimisation. The Tribunal therefore agreed to CVV’s request to suppress his identity. 

Take home points

  • As a rule, legal cases are held in public and the identities of the parties may be published, because it is important that the operation of courts and tribunals is open to public scrutiny.
  • There are some cases where the risks to one or more of the parties is so great that their names will be suppressed.   
CVV v United Resource Management Pty Ltd (URM) [2016] NSWCATAD 271 (24 November 2016)     

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