A court has awarded a woman $160,000 compensation for “extremely serious” sexual harassment at the hands of her boss.
Her legal representatives believe the amount is a record sum awarded to a sexual harassment survivor in Queensland.
The Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) initially awarded the woman $50,000.
However, the President of the Industrial Court later increased the sum substantially on appeal, describing the employer’s conduct as “disgusting”.
Perlita Golding, a mother-of-four originally from the Philippines, worked at the The Laundry Chute in Brisbane from June 2017 to August 2018.
The QIRC found Sippel sexually harassed and also discriminated against her from the start of her employment.
For example, touching her bottom and offering to lend his lawnmower to her in exchange for sexual intercourse.
The Commission also found that on another occasion Sippel grabbed Golding’s groin through her clothes.
He then pushed her hand down the front of his shorts and put his hand down her pants.
Furthermore, the QIRC found Sippel regularly propositioned Golding for sex, then sent her home and withdrew working hours when she rebuffed him.
Commissioner Roslyn McLennan ordered Sippel pay Golding:
- $16,000 for economic loss;
- $30,000 for general damages; in addition to
- $5000 for aggravated damages.
Court awards record compensation
Golding subsequently appealed the QIRC’s compensation order, claiming the damages awarded were “manifestly inadequate”.
President of the Industrial Court of Queensland, Justice Peter Davis, agreed.
He set aside the $35,000 for general damages and aggravated damages, instead substituting an award of $130,000.
Justice Davis also set aside the award of $16,000 for economic loss and instead substituted $28,702.
Justice Davis described Sippel’s conduct as “extremely serious”.
He said the employer tormented Golding, leaving her with little choice but to “put up with him” because of her financial position.
“It was that reason why she tolerated his lewd and disgusting behaviour,” Justice Davis said.
“On every day she appeared for work, she knew the prospect was that she would be humiliated and demeaned sexually by him.
“That ultimately resulted in a diagnosed anxiety disorder causing her to be unable to work.”
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Courts awarding substantial compensation
Employment lawyer Stephen Dryley-Collins said courts are now commonly awarding substantial sums of compensation to sexual harassment survivors.
“A previous case involving a solicitor named Hughes set the benchmark for sexual harassment compensation in the hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he said.
“The courts clearly view sexual harassment and discrimination extremely seriously, and are now awarding sums of compensation accordingly.”
Mr Dryley-Collins advised anyone who has experienced harassment or discrimination to seek urgent expert advice from an employment law specialist.
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