A delivery driver has been ordered to pay a retail worker $45,000 compensation for sexually harassing her.
Former Toll driver Frayne Higgins constantly called the woman “juicy” and once even slapped her on the bottom.
Incredibly, he later threatened to sue her for embarrassing and shaming him when she took action.
The woman worked at the Sanity store in Hobart between 2013 and 2014.
She told Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Tribunal that Higgins harassed her when he was delivering stock to the store.
She accused him of treating her differently to other staff, describing his demeanour as “overly friendly”.
As time went on, Higgins began calling the woman “juicy”.
When the store manager told him to stop, Higgins laughed.
He also frequently asked the worker if she had a boyfriend, and if she wasn’t in the store, he would enquire when she was working next.
The tribunal found that on one occasion, he “slapped” her bottom and then told her not to tell her boss.
“[Higgins] came into the store to drop off stock, commented on the pants she was wearing telling her that they were ‘nice pants’ and then slapped her on the buttocks when she bent down to check the boxes that he had delivered.”
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The employee later mentioned the incident to Sanity management, who immediately made a complaint to Toll.
As a result, Toll stood Higgins down and commenced an investigation.
Higgins’ wife subsequently contacted the Sanity store “demanding to speak with [the employee] about a ‘sexual harassment claim’ against her husband”.
The employee decided to discontinue the complaint so Toll re-instated Higgins on the condition that he no longer make deliveries to Sanity.
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In a bizarre twist, the Sanity worker then received a letter from Higgins’s lawyer describing her accusations as false and defamatory causing “injury to his credit and reputation”.
The letter claimed Higgins suffered economic loss as a result of the delivery ban to the Sanity store.
It also said Higgins suffered “shame and embarrassment”.
The letter demanded she pay him $30,000 compensation.
A month later, the retail employee stopped working at Sanity and filed a complaint with the tribunal.
Delivery driver ordered to pay retail worker
The tribunal found most of the Sanity employee’s evidence “largely corroborated”.
In comparison, it described Higgin’s evidence as “unconvincing”.
“[Higgins’s] slapping of the complainant on the buttocks clearly constitutes an unsolicited act of physical contact of a sexual nature, given the part of her body that was touched and in the context of the comments made about her clothing.
“The Tribunal also finds that referring to the complainant as “juicy” … amounted to an unwelcome remark with sexual connotations.”
The tribunal awarded the worker $25,000 compensation.
It then went on to address the defamation letter sent by Higgins, describing it as an “aggravating factor”.
“The impact upon the complainant of this conduct was profound.
“The tribunal accepts that the complainant’s mental health suffered, although the medical evidence falls short of diagnosing a mental health disorder.
“Her relationship with her partner was adversely impacted and her enjoyment of life has been affected.”
The tribunal ordered Higgins to pay the employee an additional $20,000.
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Higgins appealed the decision to the Tasmanian Supreme Court.
Representing himself in court, Higgins claimed the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal had “doctored and altered the transcript”.
Chief Justice Alan Blow dismissed the appeal and ordered Higgins to pay costs.
Toll sacked Higgins as a result of the proceedings before Equal Opportunity Tasmania and the defamation letter he had sent because the company had previously directed him not to contact the retail employee.
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