A farmhand who attempted suicide after being subjected to appalling sexual harassment by his work mates has been paid $30,000 compensation.
Employee advocacy firm Discrimination Claims helped the young man negotiate the payout in the Anti-Discrimination Commission of Queensland.
Subjected to constant taunts
*Nick had worked at the farm in north Queensland for two years, and was subjected to constant taunts and abuse about his perceived sexuality, with his workmates referring to him as “gay” and “faggot” and “poofter”.
His colleagues would write graffiti on furniture, vehicles and equipment all over the farm which said “Nick loves boys”.
One of his colleagues also changed the wording on Nick’s First Aid kit to read “First Aids Kit”, and altered his First Aid certificate to say he “gives good hand jobs”.
Harassment had devastating effect
Miles Heffernan, Director of Litigation at Discrimination Claims, said that while the harassment was juvenile, it had a profound and devastating effect on his client- who happened to be married to a woman.
“Here we had a young man who just wanted to turn up to the farm and do his work, and instead he was targeted in the most vicious and cruel way, in what was a relentless and very public campaign of abuse,” he said.
“This was blatant, persistent and outrageous sexual harassment.”
Public shaming and humiliation
When Nick complained to management, every worker at the farm was told at a meeting to stop the graffiti, because it “didn’t look professional”.
The hurt and humiliation felt by Nick wasn’t addressed
Nick had the nickname “Titta”, and graffiti started appearing around the farm saying “Titta and Ben take it up the arse”, referring to another worker.
The harassment turned into very public humiliation when Nick’s colleagues mowed a huge sign into the wall of a water pond on the farm, suggesting Nick was in love with another male worker.
“This was not just sexual harassment involving someone being creepy or inappropriate at work, this also had the added pain of public shaming and humiliation as well,” Mr Heffernan said.
The abuse became so bad that Nick was eventually hospitalised after attempting suicide.
“You can only imagine the torment he suffered, that would lead him to want to try and kill himself,” Mr Heffernan said.
Farm owners agree to pay $30,000 compensation
Discrimination Claims lodged a complaint of sexual harassment in the Anti-Discrimination Commission of Queensland, which ordered a mediation between the parties.
After being presented with all of the evidence, Mr Heffernan said the farm’s owners agreed to pay Nick $30,000 for hurt and humiliation, and lost earnings.
“The employer quickly realised the error of their ways, and made a significant remedy.”
Mr Heffernan warned that when things become sexual in nature at work, you’re heading down a slippery slope into trouble.
“You can joke with your workmates and there can be a robust environment, but the moment you start to pick on someone because of an attribute, and say that they’re gay, or that they’re a man when they are a woman, or you refer to the colour of their skin, and you ridicule them, or publicly humiliate them, then you’re breaking the law and you’re in hot water,” he said.
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