Sexual Harassment Claims has won $20,000 for a Brisbane bartender slapped twice on the bum by the venue’s owner.
Employment law experts say the case is another warning to employers about the seriousness of sexual misconduct in the workplace.
And furthermore, it shows the enormous financial and psychological impact such behaviour can have on those involved.
The first incident
The 28 year-old woman had worked at the popular nightspot for a month when the first incident happened.
She said she walked from behind the bar and across the venue past where the owner was standing and drinking with friends.
The man in his 50s then reached out and slapped her on the bottom.
According to documents filed in the Queensland Human Rights Commission (QHRC), the incident left the woman feeling hurt and humiliated.
She continued working until she finished her shift that night, however.
The second incident
The woman said the owner did it again a few months later at another function.
She described walking across the venue with a junior colleague when he slapped her and her colleague on the bottom.
The bartender once again felt offended and humiliated, and as a result, made a formal complaint to the general manager the following day.
At a subsequent meeting, the owner apologised, but claimed he had no memory of either incident because he had been drinking.
A few days later, the woman resigned, despite having just started a new 12-month contract with the company.
Serious psychological damage
A report from a psychologist presented to the QHRC stated that the woman showed symptoms of:
- depression and stress;
- low mood;
- anxiety; and
The psychologist said the symptoms related directly to the way she had been treated at work. The report states:
“It is my belief that the harassment and her subsequent loss of work were fundamental contributors to [the woman’s] emotional state.”
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Employment lawyer Christiaan van Oeveren described the owner’s conduct as “appalling”.
“Everybody has the right to go to work without the boss slapping you on the backside,” he said.
“However, when a sexual harassment perpetrator is also your boss, it can be extremely difficult to make a complaint.
“Workers naturally fear that speaking out will impact their current job in addition to their future career.”
Sexual Harassment Claims wins $20,000
Despite the strength of the case, it never reached a full hearing in the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission.
The woman instead agreed to settle the matter in exchange for $20,000 compensation.
Mr van Oeveren said a case such as this would normally attract a much larger payout, however because of personal circumstances, the woman was unable to continue with the claim.
Mr van Oeveren advised any worker who has experienced sexual harassment or any form of discrimination to seek urgent expert advice from an employment lawyer.
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