THE COUNTRY’S second-largest award for
sexual harassment should provide a
$466,000 wake-up call for Australian work
places on the risks of sexual harassment.
On 23 June the Federal Court ruled that
Malgorzata Poniatowska, a female employee
of South Australian housing developer, Hick
inbotham Group, was sexually abused and
then unfairly sacked when she made multiple
complaints about the abuse. The court or
dered her employer to pay $466,000 in dam
ages and her legal expenses – which are ex
pected to amount to more than $1 million.
Poniatowska had made a number of com
plaints to her Hickinbotham manager about
what she considered were lurid emails and
text messages from male colleagues in 2005.
She was sacked in 2006, with her employer
claiming that her dismissal was due to poor
Justice John Mansfield did not accept
performance as a justifiable reason for the
dismissal, and, instead, accepted Ponia
towska’s versions of events that the organi
sation had sought to target her, following her
complaints of sexual harassment. “Ms Poni
atowska was not treated as the victim of sex
ual harassment, but as a problem to be dealt
with,” Justice Mansfield found.
The finding was the second largest pay
ment for sexual harassment awarded in Aus
tralia, behind a $492,000 sum awarded to a
woman who was raped at her workplace.