A former Hertz reservations agent is suing the company for sexual harassment.
The woman has commenced legal action in the Federal Court claiming a colleague subjected her to persistent sexual misconduct.
The worker claims the man groped her and called her “a slut”.
She also alleges that Hertz failed to stop the conduct after she complained.
She is seeking compensation for damages and costs.
Former Hertz reservations agent sues
The woman joined Hertz in 2010, and claims the sexual harassment started when she transferred to the Melbourne Airport office six years later.
She said it involved a colleague “frequently standing very close” to her whenever he was talking to her.
She described his behaviour as “effectively invading her personal space”.
Additionally, the man allegedly place his hands on her shoulders.
The woman said that she tried to use distracting words in an attempt to diffuse the situation.
According to her statement of claim:
“The [colleague] made no attempt to conceal his conduct from other employees.
“The conduct occurred within the presence of other staff members rostered on at various times…
“The applicant tried to gauge the reaction of other employees to the inappropriate conduct, however no other staff commented on it.”
During one night shift in May, the woman alleges the man sexually assaulted her.
The woman said she recoiled, making it clear the sexual advances were not welcome.
Failed to stop the conduct
The worker said she reported the man’s behaviour to her superiors, however, she claims they failed to stop the conduct.
One of her managers told her that the man’s behaviour was not acceptable and she would “have a word with him”.
However, the man’s behaviour towards the woman then became angry, the woman claimed.
“In July 2016 the second respondent told the applicant to “f— off” in an aggressive tone,” the statement of claim states.
“In March 2017 the second respondent called the applicant a ‘slut’.”
After that incident the woman took annual leave and did not return to work.
She claims that she suffered anxiety, depression, and a loss of confidence as a result of the alleged harassment.
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Duty to act
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan said companies have a duty to act on complaints of sexual harassment.
“When a worker makes a formal complaint about sexual harassment, it should be treated extremely seriously by management,” he said.
“It is important to commence an investigation to establish the facts surrounding any allegations. And that investigation must include speaking to all parties involved in addition to giving the alleged perpetrator a chance to respond.”
Mr Heffernan recommends employers seek legal advice when investigating serious allegations such as sexual harassment.
“If a company mishandles a complaint, they leave themselves wide open to legal action and huge compensation pay outs,” he said.
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