In the recent case of Menere v Poolrite Equipment Pty Ltd and
Anor  QCAT 252, the employer, Poolrite, was found not to be
vicariously liable for sexual harassment engaged in by one of its
What does this mean for employers?
This case demonstrates that employers who have done 'more
than merely have a policy in place' for preventing and dealing
with sexual harassment will be better placed to avoid vicarious
liability for sexual harassment engaged in by an employee.
The case in brief
Mr Menere was employed by Poolrite as a casual assembly line
worker. On a number of occasions over a four month period in 2008,
Mr Menere experienced unwelcome conduct from Mr Singh, another
Poolrite employee, including inappropriate comments, gestures and
physical contact of a sexual nature.
When Poolrite's operations manager became aware of the
incidents, he conducted an investigation into the matter and, when
Mr Singh failed to deny Mr Menere's allegations, Poolrite
summarily terminate Mr Singh's employment.
Mr Menere brought a claim against Mr Singh and Poolrite for the
anxiety and other symptoms he suffered as a result of Mr
Singh's conduct. Mr Menere sought financial compensation for
past and future medical expenses, as well as damages for hurt and
Poolrite argued that it was not vicariously liable for Mr
Singh's conduct because it had taken reasonable steps to
prevent Mr Singh from engaging in sexual harassment.
In considering whether Poolrite had taken all reasonable steps
to prevent the conduct, the Tribunal placed particular emphasis on
the following factors:
As part of its induction process, Poolrite provided all
employees, including Mr Singh, with an employee handbook which
included a detailed section dealing with sexual harassment.
Poolrite caused its employees to attend training on sexual
harassment in the workplace on a number of occasions, both before
and after the incidents occurred.
Once Poolrite's operations manager became aware of the
incidents, he conducted an investigation and terminated Mr
The Tribunal held that Poolrite was not vicariously liable for
Mr Menere's conduct because it had taken 'sufficient
positive steps to ensure awareness and attempted compliance with
appropriate workplace practices'.
Tips for employers
Employers should ensure that their employees are made aware of
and provided with copies of the applicable sexual harassment policy
and/or code of conduct.
Employees should receive training in the areas of sexual
harassment, bullying and equal employment opportunity on a regular
Employers should ensure that if sexual harassment does occur in
the workplace, they investigate the incident swiftly and deal with
the matter appropriately.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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Long experience representing many of Australia's leading employers has taught us that in employment litigation the identity of an employee's representative is a major factor in how employee litigation runs.
Australian employees receive certain entitlements (such as annual leave and superannuation) where contractors do not.
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