A recent case in the Federal Circuit Court highlights the importance of employers acting on complaints of sexual harassment by their employees.
In Alexander v Capello and Anor, an employer was held to be vicariously liable under the provisions of the Sex Discrimination Act, for the sexual harassment perpetrated upon café employee, Ms. Alexander, by a fellow employee Mr. Vekiarellis, in the course of employment.
In legal terms vicarious liability means when one person is held liable for the acts of another person.
Upon being informed by Ms. Alexander of the alleged sexual harassment taking place, her employer failed to take appropriate action to deal with the situation or put an end to the harassment. Ms. Alexander was subsequently dismissed by her employer, when she notified him further that the conduct was still continuing. The Court found Ms. Alexander’s dismissal constituted victimisation, and in addition, found her employer vicariously liable for the actions of Mr. Vekiarellis under the provisions of the Sex Discrimination Act. She was awarded compensation in the range of $140,000.
You can read the whole case, here. http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/sinodisp/au/cases/cth/FCCA/2013/860.html
Take reports of sexual harassment seriously!
This is a valuable reminder for all employers to take complaints of a sexual nature seriously and act upon them immediately. Employers may ultimately be held vicariously responsible for the conduct of their employees.
It is recommended that businesses take care to have comprehensive policies and procedures in place for dealing with complaints by employees, including those of alleged sexual harassment and provide continual training and education of their employee’s rights and responsibilities in this regard.