A boss has been ordered to pay a former employee $50,000 after subjecting her to appalling sexual harassment.
The Queensland Industrial Relations Commission found the man sexually harassed the woman on multiple occasions while she worked at his Brisbane laundromat.
Boss ordered to pay employee compensation for harassment
The woman, a mother of four, began working for Ian Sippel at his laundromat in 2017.
He immediately asked her if he could touch her before putting his hand down her pants.
The woman also accused Sippel of asking for sex in exchange for stable work and the promise of a “proper job”.
The Commission heard that in once instance, he proposed paying her $500 for sex.
The worker also claimed Sippel made remarks describing her as “sexy” and that she made him “horny”.
Offensive text messages
Commissioner Roslyn McLennan noted the man also sent the woman a number of offensive text messages.
Several times, the woman messaged Sippel asking for work, to which he replied, “give me your pussy … maybe you give me incentive to give u job”.
“When [the woman] objected to the conduct, she asserts that Mr Sippel laughed and said words to the effect of, ‘La La La La’,” Ms McLennan said.
In another disturbing incident, Sippel grabbed the woman’s hand and put it down his pants and used it to masturbate himself.
Then in 2018, the woman asked to borrow Sippel’s lawnmower.
In response, he said words to the effect of “I’ll give you my mower for free, it is worth $500, if you give me sex”.
Comments described as ‘banter’
Sippel represented himself in the Commission.
He disputed the account of some of the incidents, however he did admit to making comments such as “you make me horny”.
Sippel dismissed the comments as “typical banter” at the laundromat.
Ms McLennan ordered Sippel to pay the woman:
- $16,000 for economic loss;
- $30,000 for general damages; in addition to
- $5000 for aggravated damages.
“These acts occurred over an extended period of time. [The woman’s] clear protestations at the time were ignored.”
Ms McLennan also noted Sippel denied the woman work following her rejection of his advances.
She said he jeopardised her ability to provide for her children as a result.
No excuse for sexual harassment
Employment lawyer Stephen Dryley-Collins said everybody deserves a safe workplace.
“I am not surprised the Commission imposed a severe penalty on Mr Sippel because his alleged conduct is appalling,” he said.
“Nobody should have to put up with that sort of behaviour from their boss or anyone in any workplace.”
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Update to story
WOMAN APPEALS AND INSTEAD AWARDED NEARLY $160,000.
The woman appealed the compensation ordered by the QIRC as manifestly inadequate.
President, Justice Peter Davis agreed, setting aside the $50,000 compensation ordered by Commissioner McLennan, and instead awarding the woman $158,702.
In his judgement, Justice Davis said Sippel’s conduct was “extremely serious”.
He also said he tormented the woman who had little choice but to “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.”
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