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Court ups the ante – $130,000 compensation awarded in sexual harassment case

July 2015

A recent case in the Federal Court has seen an order of an initial compensation payment of $18,000 be set aside and a sum of $130,000 awarded. The case dealt with a breach of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984. 

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The employee concerned alleged that they had been the victim of sustained sexual harassment since 2008 by a sales representative.  In February 2014 during the original case, the employer was found vicariously liable for the harassment and $18,000 was awarded to the employee for pain and suffering.  The employee appealed this decision and the revised ruling by the Federal Court increased the amounted awarded to $130,000.

The ruling is likely to have implications for future Australian sexual harassment cases, as the judges found damages awarded in such cases had fallen short of damages paid to victims in other areas such as workplace bullying, defamation and injuries.

‘Such disparity bespeaks the fact that today an award for sexual harassment, though within the accepted range for such cases, may be manifestly inadequate as compensation for the damage suffered by the victim, judged by reference to prevailing community standards,’ the appeal judgment found.

‘While the sum of $18,000 was not out of step with past awards in cases of this kind, this amount was nonetheless manifestly inadequate. It was out of step with the general standards prevailing in the community regarding the monetary value of the loss and damage of the kind Ms Richardson sustained.’

The ruling highlights the need for organisations to ensure that they have taken reasonable steps to avoid incidents of inappropriate workplace behaviour.  eComplianceTraining offers online Sexual Harassment Training as part of its compliance training suite – to learn more, click here.

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