What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 9 – 15 August

Sexual Harassment Damages Increased

The President of the Industrial Court of Queensland has increased the compensation for a woman who suffered sexual harassment and discrimination at the hands of her employer, describing the initial sum as “manifestly inadequate.” President Davis set aside the initial award from the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission, replacing it with an awarded dubbed “record-breaking.” Perlita Golding was a casual employee for 14 months at a Brisbane laundromat, the Laundry Chute. She was found to have suffered offers of money and a lawnmower in exchange for sexual favours, repeated propositions for intercourse, multiple instances of sexual assault, sexual harassment via text messages and less favourable treatment in the workplace because she is female. Initially, the industrial commissioner awarded general damages of $30 000 and aggravated damages of $5000 in addition to economic loss of $15 960. However, President Davis concluded that the general and aggravated damages should be lifted on the basis that they were “manifestly inadequate.” and instead awarded $130,000. President Davis said “On every day she appeared for work, she knew the prospect was that she would be humiliated and demeaned sexually by him. That ultimately resulted in a diagnosed anxiety disorder causing her to be unable to work.”

Fair Work Commission Denies Unfair Dismissal Bullying Claim

A registered nurse applied to the Fair Work Commission claiming unfair dismissal. She contended that she had been bullied by her manager and that the respondent, Ramsay Health Care, had failed to deal with the complaint. The applicant alleged that her manager had ignored and belittled her, and made decisions which made it difficult for her to carry out her role. She eventually resigned from her employment. She sought a ruling of unfair dismissal on the basis that she had no choice but to resign because the respondent had failed to deal with her complaint. The complaint arose following an email from the respondent raising competency concerns. The applicant refused to attend a meeting addressing these concerns. She then sent an email outlining the bullying allegations. The respondent responded to the email without addressing the allegations, after which the applicant resigned. The Commission found the letter raising competency concerns was not unreasonable. The fact that other employees received a similar letter did not make the applicant’s refusal to attend the meeting reasonable. Furthermore, the Commission found there was no denial of procedural fairness. They held that, despite the respondent’s failure to consider the email outlining the bullying allegations, the applicant had other options than resignation. Therefore the application was dismissed.