In a landmark appeal decision [Richardson v Oracle Corporation Australia Pty Ltd  FCAFC 82 – the Full Bench of the Federal Court awarded the applicant a significant increase in compensation for a sexual harassment claim from $18,000 to $130,000.
The employee Ms Richardson had suffered an adjustment disorder after being subjected to a humiliating series of slurs and sexual advances from her co-worker Mr Tucker. It was found that Ms Richardson was subjected to a repeated pattern and systematic course of conduct of sexual harassment. The employer – Oracle, was held vicariously liable for Mr Tucker’s unlawful conduct.
This case signifies that moving forward, Courts may apply a more generous approach when assessing damages for discrimination and harassment claims.
Employer and business managers need to be across their legal obligations in ensuring workers are provided with a workplace that is free from harassment/discrimination/ bullying.
Employers can defend their claims or mitigate loss by taking reasonable steps to prevent such behaviours and actions in the workplace. As a minimum we recommend:
- Having a comprehensive policy and training staff on such policies,
- Undertaking regular ‘refresher’ training on your policies,
- Train and educate workers on the relevant laws in relation to harassment and discrimination, and
- Take all complaints seriously, undertake investigations and enforce your policies
This case serves as a lesson for all employers; as an employer you must take all reasonable steps to prevent harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Failure to do so may not just result in significant financial loss but may also seriously damage the workplace culture and morale.
We can develop and implement appropriate harassment and discrimination policies and procedures and training for your workplace, and provide assistance in investigating any complaints that have been made in your workplace.