A young marketing co-ordinator who was sacked after complaining about constant sex discrimination and sexual harassment by her managers has won $20,000 compensation.
*Amanda worked for the Queensland-based heavy machinery business since she was 17 years-old, and said it didn’t take long for the sexual harassment to start.
As part of her job, Amanda would be required to travel to rural areas with one of the managers, a man in his 60s, who would often make suggestions for sex, including asking her to share motel rooms with him.
“If we can’t get a two-bedroom unit, you won’t mind if we just get a twin share room?” he asked her on one occasion, and on another he lied by telling her, “Oh, we’re going to have to stay in the same room tonight, it’s all they had left.”
Whenever Amanda was sitting at her desk, the same manager would rub his lower body against her back.
Among other sexually suggestive comments, he once told her, “I’ve noticed your little bum wiggles when you walk around work sometimes in your heels.”
Christiaan Van Oeveren from Discrimination Claims said the manager’s conduct made Amanda feel awkward and uncomfortable.
“Maybe in the past with this kind of behaviour you were just supposed to shrug it off and just move on, but in today’s modern workplace, this is not appropriate or acceptable,” he said.
“It’s disrespectful and it’s disgusting that people would behave like this and treat someone in this manner – when they simply want to be treated with respect.”
Amanda was subjected to further sexual harassment from another manager who once squeezed her upper thigh, and would ask her intrusive questions about her sex life, despite her asking him to stop.
“You kissed Jimmy’s willy,” he once said, referring to Amanda’s boyfriend.
Mr Van Oeveren said unless someone makes it clear that they are happy to talk about personal matters at work, then you should always maintain a professional relationship with your colleagues.
“People might be happy to talk about what they did on the weekend, they might be happy to talk about their partners, or they might even be happy to talk about their love life, however, they must give their consent and make it clear that they are happy to talk about those things,” he said.
“In this case, she made it clear that she didn’t want to talk about it.”
Amanda suffered yet more sexual harassment from a third manager who once bear hugged her and kissed her on the forehead.
He would also touch her hair suggesting how she should style it.
“Unless there is very clear consent, physical contact in the workplace is a big no,” Mr Van Oeveren said.
“She’s been subjected to unwanted physical contact, she’s been subjected to offensive comments from her colleagues, to which she has very clearly said no to, they needed to realise that going on to comment about her hair and touching her hair was also not acceptable.”
The final insult came when Amanda eventually complained to a senior manager about the way she was being treated, who responded by telling her, “I think it’s best for you to find another job.”
A few days later, while on sick leave, Amanda was sacked via text message: “Please drop your phone and keys in and we will consider your employment terminated.”
“In this situation, she raised the complaint, and they thought rather than dealing with it, we’ll just get rid of her,” Mr Van Oeveren said.
This was classic victimisation according to Mr Van Oeveren, which is unlawful, because an employer cannot punish a worker for raising a legitimate complaint about sexual harassment or discrimination.
“They refused to accept that they were the problem, they decided that she was the problem, and they immediately removed her,” he said.
Discrimination Claims lodged a claim in the Anti-Discrimination Commission, arguing sex discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation.
The matter was then referred to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission, where Mr Van Oeveren represented Amanda, but before the case got to a hearing, the company agreed to pay her $20,000 compensation.
“It is disgusting and disgraceful, and it’s a disappointing reflection on too many modern workplaces that this sort of conduct still goes on,” Mr Van Oeveren said.
“Businesses need to know, whether they like it or not, that society has developed, and this sort of behaviour is no longer acceptable.”
To read more about this case, click here to visit our Employer Advisors website.
If you believe you have been subjected to sexual harassment or discrimination based on your sex, or have been victimised after making a complaint, you may be entitled to compensation. Please call Discrimination Claims on 1300 853 837 for expert and confidential advice about your options.
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