Sexual harassment victims could be eligible to claim hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation, according to employment lawyers.
The Federal Circuit Court recently awarded a paralegal $170,000 after her boss subjected her to appalling sexual harassment.
The pay out included a record $50,000 for aggravated damages.
Sexual harassment victims eligible for huge payouts
The case involved a law firm boss who subjected the paralegal to “relentless” sexual harassment.
For example, sending endless emails suggesting the two have an affair.
She also found him in her bedroom wearing boxer shorts and a singlet during a work trip.
Finally, the man sent emails threatening the woman’s employment if she didn’t agree to a relationship with him.
In a scathing decision, Judge Salvatore Vasta awarded the woman $170,000.
“SEXUAL HARASSMENT COSTS LAW FIRM BOSS $170,000 IN DAMAGES”
Compensation amounts trending upwards
Employment lawyer Stephen Dryley-Collins says the case is an example of how much sexual harassment can cost an employer.
“The court decided that $170,000 was the appropriate remedy for that conduct, and an appeal court subsequently upheld that decision, and agreed that amount was appropriate,” he said.
“We are now seeing those amounts trending upwards, so employers should expect penalties in the hundreds of thousands of dollars if they allow similar conduct in their workplace.”
Mr Dryley-Collins says employers can be held legally responsible for the conduct of their staff.
“While individuals commit sexual harassment, the employer can be found vicariously liable for the actions of those individuals,” he said.
Both state and federal legislation bans sexual harassment in the workplace, in education settings and also in the provision of goods and services.
Despite this, 39 percent of women and 26 percent of men reported experiencing workplace sexual harassment in the past five years, according to the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Mr Dryley-Collins says the unlawful conduct can have a devastating effect on victims, leading to serious health conditions.
For example, anxiety, depression and also post-traumatic stress disorder.
“We’ve seen this in our jurisdiction where people haven’t been able to return to work at all, they’ve had to change industries, it’s had significant impacts on their personal relationships, their ability to engage with friends and also family and during social outings.
“So, therefore, at no stage should we underestimate the damage sexual harassment or sex discrimination can have on a person.”
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