Workplace bullying laws define sexual harassment as any unwelcome or unwanted sexual behaviour that offends, humiliates or intimidates another person. The law requires employers to impose workplace anti-bullying regulations, provide training for their employees on gender sensitivity, and put in place mechanisms for lodging complaints for workplace bullying and harassment, for investigating and penalising them. All complaints for sexual harassment or workplace bullying must be taken seriously and investigated.
In the case of Vincent Wilson v Anglo Coal (Moranbah North Management) Pty Ltd T/A Anglo American FWC 4386, at an underground coal mine, a female trainee resigned after a few months at work citing that she was not suited to the job because of the extreme physical demands of her duties. During her exit interview, she alleged that a technician sexually harassed her while she was alone in the tight space of a “man basket”. She alleged that the technician patted, slapped and touched her backside. She also claimed that the technician had made sexually-explicit conversations with her, commented on her relationship with her boyfriend and offered to let her stay at his place rent-free if she liked gardening, sex, and helping with chores around the house.
The coal mine company issued a show cause letter to the technician. In his response, the technician denied the allegations claiming that the female trainee imagined those scenarios as the incident never happened. Seven months after the investigation for workplace harassment, the technician was dismissed from work for the sexual misconduct. The coal mine claimed that the technician violated the company code of conduct, the equal employment and anti-bullying policies of the workplace.
The dismissed technician then filed a claim for unfair dismissal. In the proceedings before the Fair Work Commission, the technician produced evidence from the HR Coordinator who testified that he had spoken to the trainee about her language in the workplace. The Operations Coordinator complained that the trainee excessively used swear words and discussed personal sexual matters in front of her co-workers. According to the statement of the HR Coordinator who spoke with the trainee, she used that language to fit in with the rest of the crew.
A supervisor also testified that when they were all in the crib room, in the presence of about 10 co-employees, the trainee used inappropriate language that was sexually explicit. According to the supervisor, the trainee described her boyfriend playing with her “arse” and getting upset that she played with his “arse”. The trainee also talked about sex toys. The trainee’s comments made other co-workers uncomfortable.
The Fair Work Commission reinstated the technician, but it also observed that the coal company failed to mentor the trainee to guide her about acceptable behaviour in the workplace.
If you live or work in Perth and you feel that you are experiencing bullying or sexual harassment at work, it would be wise to contact bullying and harassment lawyers in Perth. Call any of our lawyers today for a free consultation.