Kate Matthews, a former employee of Winslow
Constructions, alleged that throughout her employment, she was
subject to abuse, bullying and sexual harassment from fellow
employees and contractors.
The alleged conduct included showing her pornographic material
and asking her if she'd do it, making sexually explicit
comments, calling her names, and commenting on her appearance and
Ms Matthews was reluctant to complain, as one of her supervisors
was a perpetrator. When she did complain to one manager, his
response was to laugh at her. Eventually, she was moved to a
different crew. The conduct ceased.
Inexplicably however, she was moved back to the offending crew
nine months later. The bullying, sexual harassment and abuse
resumed, culminating in an incident where an employee threatened to
"follow (her) home, rip her clothes off and rape
Ms Matthews, frightened by the threat, complained to the person
who she understood was responsible for human resources at Winslow.
Later that afternoon, she received a telephone call on her mobile
telephone from a private number, during which a male voice called
Ms Matthews an extremely unpleasant expletive. Ms Matthews has not
Ms Matthews filed a claim in the Supreme Court of Victoria,
alleging negligence based on a failure to provide a safe place of
work. Winslow initially defended the proceedings, and even claimed
contributory negligence. But on day five of the hearing, Winslow
changed its tune and admitted negligence. Ouch.
So how did the Court get to $1.3 million? Given the action was
pleaded in negligence, the Court can award damages based on past
economic loss, future economic loss, and also general damages for
pain and suffering.
The Court accepted that Ms Matthews had suffered, and continued
to suffer, serious chronic psychiatric illness as a consequence of
the treatment she received. It also found that she was unlikely to
be fit to work again, using a retirement age of 65 in its
calculations. On top, the Court awarded $380,000 in general
Are you confident your management team is appropriately dealing
with allegations of abuse, bullying and sexual harassment?
We do not disclaim anything about this article. We're
quite proud of it really.
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
An employee that refused a reasonable offer of settlement was ordered by the FWC to pay his ex-employer's legal costs.
Some comments from our readers… “The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable” “I often find critical information not available elsewhere” “As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).