Industrial Court significantly increases compensation to sexually harassed worker

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Industrial Court significantly increases compensation to sexually harassed worker

In a very interesting ruling, the Industrial Court of Queensland has significantly increased the quantum of compensation awarded to an employee who has suffered various forms of sexual harassment from her employer over nearly two years.

The initial decision of 9 March 2021 determined that the owner/manager of The Laundry Chute Pty Ltd (the employer) had sexually harassed and sexually discriminated against the employee in breach of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991. Amongst a range of inappropriate and, at times, unlawful behaviour, the male manager was found to have physically touched the female employee on her bottom, sent her inappropriate texts, sought to engage the employee in sexual intercourse, as well as touching her genitals without her consent.

Evidence was presented that the behaviours contributed to the employee being diagnosed with an adjustment disorder and anxiety and depression.

The initial decision of Industrial Commissioner Roslyn McLennan was to award the employee compensation exceeding $50,000, comprising $15,960.75 for economic loss, $30,000 for general damages, and $5,000 for aggravated damages. As part of the judgement, the company and the manager were also ordered to pay the employee’s legal costs.

However, the appeal decision of Justice Peter Davis significantly increased these amounts. Most notably, he substituted the amounts awarded for general damages and aggravated damages to a combined figure of $130,000.

As Justice Davis noted in his decision,

“The award of damages is, in my view, manifestly inadequate. Mr S conduct was extremely serious. Over a period of 14 months, he tormented (PG) a woman who had little choice but to work for The Laundry Chute and put up with him because of her financial position. It was that reason why she tolerated his lewd and disgusting behaviour. 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”.

Justice Davis also reassessed the amount awarded for economic loss and increased the amount to $28,702.60.

No decision has yet been made to the employee’s request for further legal costs.

PG v IS and The Laundry Chute Pty Ltd [2021] ICQ 14 (C/2021/5) 6 August 2021

For questions about harassment, anti-discrimination, or other employment questions, please contact Dean Cameron at Workforce Advisory Lawyers – We Know Employment Law on 1300 WAL LAW, 0417 622 178 or via email to dean.cameron@workforceadvisory.com.au

Disclaimer: This information is provided as general advice on workplace relations and employment law. It does not constitute legal advice, and it is always advisable to seek further information regarding specific workplace issues. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.

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