Hotel deemed "workplace" in sexual harassment case

by Janie Smith15 Aug 2014
When it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace, that doesn’t necessarily mean incidents that happen in the office.

The full Federal Court has upheld a sexual harassment ruling that determined that the street and a hotel were workplaces.

In December, Federal Court Justice Mordy Bromberg found that a Robert Walters contractor had sexually harassed his female manager, both verbally and physically, in May 2009, OHS Alert reported.

The incidents took place in the office, at a hotel, on the street outside the hotel and in a corridor outside the office.

Justice Bromberg found that the locations “had a sufficient workplace nexus and satisfied the statutory definition of ‘workplace’” under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984.

Under the Act, a workplace is defined as “a place at which a workplace participant works or otherwise carries out functions in connection with being a workplace participant”.

The contractor was ordered to pay his manager $476,163 in compensation, but the amount was reduced to $210,563 after settlements from other parties were taken into account.

The contractor appealed the ruling, but the court upheld the original findings.

In an article by Governance Risk & Compliance Solutions, Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick said the ruling had ramifications for other sexual harassment complaints.

She said employers should note that the definition of “workplace” extended outside the physical workplace and it could include, for example, anywhere an employee took their laptop, an office building’s common areas, the café downstairs, on public transport, a taxi or a hotel.

Broderick also said employers should be conscious that the laws relating to sexual harassment extended to their contractors and could cover situations that occurred outside of the conventional workplace.


  • by John C 16/08/2014 11:04:50 AM

    So does this bankrupt the contractor? That's the price of a house? Who gets the money?

  • by John C 16/08/2014 11:10:16 AM

    This is bureaucracy gone mad and out of control! Sure no one advocates any form of harassment, allegedly sexual or any other forms of bullying and it needs to remedied. The legislators have lost the plot with these outrageous fines. That's not the answer!

  • by Amanda Rochford 18/08/2014 3:07:22 PM

    I dont find the $ amount of the fines excessive. Sexual harassment is serious. People who are continuously harassed and bullied experience a plethora of negative emotions, reduced self-esteem, impaired judgement, are less capable (because they feel less secure), and it affects their ability to earn income now and into the forseeable future. Yes, the fine is the price of a house but the cost of being bullied and harassed is a life without fulfilling your potential. Time to stop treating these actions as though they are harmless.

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