Dealing with a hostile work environment

In line with community expectations, Australian courts are taking a much harsher approach to employer’s as well as contractor’s duties to prevent workplace sexual harassment. Ex-employee of Sydney Water, Reem Yalda has had a large award of $200,000 upheld by an Appeals Court. Her photo was featured without her consent in a safety poster with the words : “Feel great – lubricate”. An outside contractor, Vitality works which had produced the poster was held liable. The Court said: “Innuendo, insinuation, implication overtone, horseplay, a hint, a wink or a nod; these are all devices capable of being deployed to sexualise conduct in ways that may be unwelcome“. Ms Yalda’s much larger claim against Sydney Water is still pending. Employers have now been given a stern warning, says Symmetra, that they need to review policies on sexual harassment particularly with reference to hostile working environments and harassment via social media, email, Zoom and the like.

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