The Full Federal Court in the recent decision of
Richardson v Oracle Corporation Australia Pty Ltd 
FCAFC 82 ordered that an employee's award of damages for
unlawful sexual harassment be increased from $18,000 to $130,000,
stating that community standards required higher
In the initial decision, the employee was awarded $18,000 for
pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life after the trial
judge found the employer vicariously liable for its sales
representative's sexual harassment of the employee. The
unlawful sexual harassment, which occurred over several months,
involved the sales representative making sexual comments and
innuendo to the employee both privately and in front of
The employee appealed the trial judge's order on a number of
grounds and was successful, resulting in her general damages being
increased to $100,000 as well as receiving a separate award of
$30,000 for economic loss.
Effect on the employee's sexual relationship
The Full Court found that the trial judge had failed to properly
take into account the effect that the unlawful sexual harassment
had on the employee's sexual relationship with her partner.
Damages were manifestly inadequate
The Full Court accepted that the award of $18,000 for general
damages was within the previously accepted range of damages awarded
in sexual harassment cases. However, the Full Court, in referring
to other personal injury cases, observed that 'community
standards now accord a higher value to compensation for pain and
suffering and loss of enjoyment of life than before'. The
Court went on to say that previous sexual harassment
compensation awards were out of step with the general standards
prevailing in the community regarding the monetary value of damages
for loss of enjoyment of life and pain and suffering.
The Full Court found that an award of $18,000 was manifestly
inadequate and awarded the employee $100,000 for general damages
which included compensation for the injury to the employee's
sexual relationship with her partner.
The Full Court also found that there was a sufficient connection
between the unlawful conduct and the employee's decision to
leave her employment. The employee was awarded a further $30,000 as
compensation for her loss of income.
Employer's investigation did not cause loss
Finally, the Full Court rejected the employee's claim that
the employer's investigation process caused her further loss
and damage stating that damages are only available to compensate an
employee for the loss they sustain because of unlawful sexual
harassment. The Full Court stated that the unlawful conduct of the
sales representative provided the setting for what followed but was
not a cause of the way in which the employer conducted its
This is a timely reminder for employers to ensure they implement
and maintain strategies to prevent workplace discrimination,
harassment and bullying.
Winner – EOWA Employer of Choice for Women Citation 2009,
2010, 2011 and 2012
Winner – ALB Gold Employer of Choice 2011 and 2012
Finalist – ALB Australasian Law Awards 2008, 2010, 2011 and
2012 (Best Brisbane Firm)
Winner – BRW Client Choice Awards 2009 and 2010 - Best
Australian Law Firm (revenue less than $50m)
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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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