Richardson v Oracle Corporation Australia Pty
Ltd  FCAFC 82
In a landmark decision, the Full Court of the Federal Court has
increased the amount of compensation for non-economic loss awarded
to an employee, who was sexually harassed in the workplace, from
$18,000 to $100,000. This decision is a reminder that minimising
the risk and incidence of sexual harassment should be at the top of
your workplace risk management practices.
The original decision
In 2010, Rebecca Richardson issued legal proceedings against her
previous employer, Oracle, alleging that she had been sexually
harassed in the workplace by a co-worker, Randol Tucker, on at
least 11 occasions over six months.
Ms Richardson claimed that Mr Tucker made various inappropriate
comments to her, which included "Rebecca...I think we must
have been married in our last life...how do you think our marriage
was? I bet the sex was hot".
The Federal Court held that Ms Richardson had been sexually
harassed and that Oracle was vicariously liable for Mr Tucker's
behaviour, given it had not taken "all reasonable steps"
to prevent such conduct from occurring in its workplace. As a
result, Ms Richardson was awarded $18,000 for pain and suffering
and loss of enjoyment of life.
Ms Richardson also sought compensation for economic loss. She
claimed that the harassment had caused her to resign from Oracle
and accept employment with another company at a lower rate of pay.
The Federal Court rejected this claim.
Ms Richardson appealed the decision to the Full Court of the
Federal Court where it was held that $18,000 was "manifestly
inadequate" in that it did not sufficiently compensate Ms
Richardson for the psychological and reputational damage that she
suffered. The Full Court agreed, finding that community standards
"now accord a higher value to compensation for pain and
suffering and loss of enjoyment of life than before".
The Full Court also held that Ms Richardson was entitled to
compensation for the detriment the harassment caused to the sexual
relationship with her partner at the time. As a result of these
findings, the amount of damages was increased from $18,000 to
In addition to increased compensation for non-economic loss, the
Full Court held that Mr Tucker's conduct was a material cause
of Ms Richardson's decision to resign from Oracle and accept a
lower paid position. Oracle was ordered to pay Ms Richardson
$30,000 for economic loss, which was the difference between the
salary she received at Oracle and her new salary over a three year
What does this mean for employers?
The Oracle decision has set a higher benchmark for non-economic
loss arising from sexual harassment. As an employer, in order to
avoid a successful claim being made, you must be able to
demonstrate that you have taken all reasonably practicable steps to
prevent sexual harassment from occurring in your workplace. This
can be achieved by:
conducting regular sexual harassment awareness and prevention
training and ensuring that it aligns with anti-discrimination
reviewing and updating workplace policies on sexual harassment
to ensure that, at a minimum, they:
state that sexual harassment is unlawful
state that employers can be vicariously liable for sexual
harassment in connection with employment, and
refer to applicable anti-discrimination laws, and
ensuring that complaints are promptly investigated and
appropriate action is taken to address any incidents of sexual
Taking the above actions will place you in the best possible
position to defend sexual harassment claims, or at least limit your
liability in relation to such claims. If you aren't sure about
your obligations then we recommend you seek legal advice.
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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