A beauty salon worker has been awarded $150,000 compensation after she was sexually harassed by a colleague.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) found the employer vivaciously liable for the man’s conduct.
Beauty salon worker harassed
Devorah Oliver worked as a beauty therapist at Melbourne male grooming business Man Oh Man on Chapel Street.
Her colleague Federico Catalfamo sexually harassed throughout 2018.
The sexual harassment included making suggestive comments and sex noises towards Oliver in addition to slapping her bottom and deliberately brushing past her.
Catalfamo also once put his leg between Oliver’s legs and on other occasions he requested sex with her at work.
On 30 November, Federico tried to put his fingers in Oliver’s mouth when her eyes were closed while having her hair washed at a basin.
He then put his face between her breasts and moved his head from side to side.
Police subsequently charged Federico over the incident.
The Victorian Magistrates Court later fined him but did not record a conviction.
Beauty salon worker made multiple complaints
Oliver told VCAT that she complained about Catalfamo’s behaviour multiple times during 2018.
The only action the business took as a result of the complaints involved making a handbook available electronically and to discuss it at one staff meeting.
The incident led to Oliver quitting her job, telling her boss via text:
“This has made me feel really upset and uncomfortable…This isn’t right and things like this shouldn’t happen in the workplace.”
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Presiding Member Ian Scott found Man Oh Man failed to take “reasonable precautions to prevent the sexual harassment complained of by the Applicant”.
Mr Scott said management failed to properly investigate Oliver’s complaints, and failed to warn or threaten Catalfamo with disciplinary action.
He also found the business failed to adequately train Catalfamo regarding sexual harassment, ensuring he assessed, read and understood the company’s Equal Opportunity Policy.
He therefore found Man Oh Man “vicariously liable for Mr Catalfamo’s unlawful conduct”.
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Beauty salon worker awarded $150,000
Oliver sought compensation for shock and distress, telling VCAT she has needed psychological support since 2019.
Mr Scott agreed Oliver deserved compensation, ordering Man Oh Man to pay her $150,000, describing the figure as “far from excessive”.
“I find that, in consequence of the sexual harassment to which the Applicant was subjected, the Applicant has suffered and continues to suffer distress, hurt and humiliation and the exacerbation of her pre-existing mental health conditions, being anxiety, depression and PTSD which I consider to be a form of compensable non-economic loss and damage.”
Employment lawyer Stephen Dryley-Collins said the case demonstrates the importance of employers providing robust sexual harassment training.
“Just having a sexual harassment policy is not enough to protect an employer from an expensive sexual harassment claim,” he said.
“You also need proper training so staff know and understand their rights and responsibilities in relation to that policy.”
Sexual harassment not okay
Meanwhile, Oliver told 9News:
“Finally I feel like after all I’ve been through, this is some recognition that this actually happened to me, that it wasn’t all in my head and that it was serious.
“I also want people to know that sexual harassment is not ok.
“This was a traumatic and humiliating experience for me, and my employer treated it like it was a light thing, like a joke.”
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