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Cafe Worker Awarded $30,000 After Being Sexually Harassed

Cafe worker awarded $30,000 after being sexually harassed

A cafe worker has been awarded $30,000 compensation after being sexually harassed by a head chef.

The South Australian Employment Tribunal found the employer had failed to properly investigate the complaint from the worker.

The chef repeatedly touched her inappropriately in a single day at the cafe located in a prestigious Adelaide supermarket.

Cafe worker harassed three times in one day

*Sophie worked at a juice bar inside the food court at the Pasadena Foodland with head chef Camillo Crugnale (pictured).

On one day during 2017, she claimed Crugnale sexually harassed her three separate times.

Firstly, Crugale grazed his hand across Sophie’s buttocks and pushed against her using the weight of his stomach and groin.

She claimed she felt his breath on her neck because he was so close.

Sophie told the tribunal the chef acted “deliberately”.

‘Very sexual look on his face’

Secondly, Sophie said when she looked to her left as Crugale approached to pass her for a second time, she made eye contact with him and described seeing a “very sexual look on his face”.

Furthermore, she said she felt something hard press up against her – possibly a belt buckle or his erection.

Crugnale denied he had an erect penis and said he did not wear a belt.

‘Dirty, ashamed, upset and angry’

Later that day, Sophie accused Crugnale of pushing up against her again when he returned from the bakery. 

Tribunal deputy president Judge Leonie Farrell said:

“She alleges that as he passed, Mr Crugnale slid his hand over her buttocks and down toward her vagina, and pressed his body up against her as before.

“She says that because of the earlier incidents that day, she kept her legs firmly held together as this happened, but was knocked off balance and took a step back to balance herself.

“As a result, she felt dirty, ashamed, upset and angry.”

The popular Pasadena Foodland in Adelaide.

Employer had ‘careless approach’ to complaint

Sophie made a formal complaint after the incidents that day.

In response, Foodland manager Daniel Kunzel and human resources manager Matthew Piantadosi watched CCTV footage from the day.

However, the tribunal heard the audio visual system automatically destroyed the footage two weeks later. 

Judge Farrell said:

“Neither Mr Kunzel or Mr Piantadosi treated [her] complaint seriously.  Neither obtained any statement from her or recorded what was said.

“The careless approach to the complaint and the viewing of the footage is an important element with respect to Foodland Pasadena’s liability.”

What the tribunal found

Responding to the allegations, Crugnale told the tribunal the shared work space is “like a submarine”.

As a result, staff must navigate around each other.

He described any touching as “accidental”, and most likely due to his “larger build and the narrow workspace”.

In the end, Judge Farrell described Sophie as a truthful witness and that Crugnale did act inappropriately.

She subsequently ordered Foodland to pay Sophie $30,000 compensation.

*name changed

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