Workplace Law – Sexual Harassment

The employee, who was employed as a construction worker, alleged she was being sexually harassed by several of her fellow workers including by way of the following:

  • showing her pornographic material
  • making sexual comments towards her and inappropriately touching her
  • one worker threatening to follow her home, rip her clothes off and rape her
  • receiving an obscene phone call

Further, when the employee reported the harassment to a person who she believed to be responsible for compliance with workplace law in the company, the person allegedly asked her to come to his home to have a drink and talk about it.


It was held that:

  • the employer had failed to provide a safe working environment (work health and safety) in contravention of workplace law
  • the employer admitted negligence
  • the employee had subsequently suffered a major depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder
  • the psychiatric condition was permanently disabling
  • the behaviour of the fellow workers constituted sexual harassment and contravened the complainant’s employee rights


The employee was awarded damages totaling $1,360,027 as follows:

  • general damages $320,000
  • past economic loss $283,942
  • loss of earning capacity $696,085

Tips for Employers

The decision highlights the need for employers to:

  • ensure an anti-harassment policy is in place and, if appropriate, take employment law advice from a specialist workplace lawyer
  • ensure all policies are consistent eg, with your work health and safety manual, anti-bullying and discrimination policy, grievance procedure, social media policy and workplace surveillance policy
  • regularly review and update these policies as your practices may change over time as can case law, legislation and what is considered to be ‘best practice’ under workplace law
  • train staff in sexual harassment
  • train management staff in the handling of allegations of sexual harassment and in employee rights
  • ensure that employees are aware of relevant policies and procedures, particularly those relating to any new or revised policies and procedures
  • monitor the behaviour of workers – failing to address a reasonably foreseeable injury caused by sexual harassment may prove costly to both the employer and those who engage in such conduct

More Information

If you have any questions in relation to this article or if you would like any assistance in other employment law matters including employment contracts or employer obligations under the Fair Work Act, please call the leading employment lawyers in Parramatta, the Matthews Folbigg Workplace Solutions team on 9635-7966 to speak with one of our employment lawyers about your employment law issues.