Sexual harassment and the law

By Legal Eagle

Personal recollections

A long time ago, in the process of applying for Articles, I was sexually harassed by a male partner at a law firm. I think I was, anyway. I hadn’t received a place in the first round of offers, and I’d come to seek feedback on my interview technique. “What would you do to work at our firm?” asked the partner. “Would you deliver mail for us?” I answered back, “Sure, I’d deliver mail, but it seems like a bit of a waste of my capabilities. I’ll write an essay on any legal topic you choose. Just choose a topic, any topic.”  The partner watched me intently and leaned towards me, into my personal space. “How much do you want Articles? What would you be willing to do? How low would you go?” I got a bad feeling about what he was asking. Leaning back from the man, I said, “Name a legal topic and I’ll write an essay for you.” When the interview concluded, I emerged blinking into the sunlight, shaking. Did he mean what I thought he meant? Ugh.

Thinking about it over 10 years later, I think I’d have handled it very differently now. I would say, “What exactly are you asking of me?” Then, depending on his reaction, I might say, “Are you asking me to sleep with you? If so, just ask straight out, but I don’t tend to favour portly middle-aged alcoholics.” Then I’d stare at him with contempt and walk out.

Of course, I’m speaking with the advantage of 10 years experience, and as someone who now would have no problem seeking a legal job wherever she chose. As the person I am now, I could afford to burn my bridges with this man and to shame him. Back then, I thought I’d never get a job anywhere. I doubt he’d have tried it on a woman who was in a more secure position: it was precisely my insecurity and vulnerability which attracted the advance.

Would I have sued that guy, if it had been suggested to me? No. I didn’t want to render myself unemployable. As it turned out, revenge was a dish best served cold. I told my law school compatriots of the unpleasant experience I’d had at this firm, and I’m sure I read somewhere that the particular firm dropped in popularity with graduates from my university during the next year or two. I do hope that it was at least partly down to me. Then, some five years later, the same firm tried to head-hunt me. I told them politely that I wasn’t interested.

More general thoughts

One of the hard things in responding to unwanted sexual advances is a lack of knowledge of quite how to respond. Particularly if one is a nice middle-class girl, one is inculcated with politeness and a lack of desire to offend or hurt someone’s feelings. In Helen Garner’s The First Stone, she recounts an episode where her masseuse feels her up in an inappropriate manner. Garner recounts feeling frozen, not quite sure what to do. She wonders if she is imagining the inappropriate touch. This account reminded me of my reaction to the law firm partner. Was I imagining it? I also felt frozen, not quite sure what to do.

Now, if I’d been sure of what exactly he was proposing, the law firm partner might have been at risk of a slapping. I once asked my mother why my sister got more inappropriate advances than I did. “Am I less attractive?” I wondered. “No,” said my mother, after a thoughtful pause, “I think it’s just that you’d be likely to hit the guy. I’m sure they can tell.” That’s the advantage of being taller than average and reasonably broad-shouldered. I suspect that hitting the guy is not a nice middle-class response to the problem, either. But geez it feels good.

It’s quite extraordinary what politeness will lead women to do. I had a female friend who experienced unwanted approaches from a male friend. She still kept going to the movies with him and talking to him on the phone because she liked him (although not in that way) and she didn’t want to hurt his feelings. Possibly she thought her feelings towards him were obvious – it was obvious to me that she wasn’t interested in a romantic relationship because she flinched every time he touched her. Unfortunately, he wasn’t very good at reading body language signals. Things escalated to the extent that he began stalking her. She had to tell him not to approach her ever again and threaten to take out a restraining order. The issue was complicated by the fact that each of the parties had different cultural backgrounds, and were both very inexperienced in relationships. He thought her politeness masked keenness for his company, she thought her politeness was self-evidently kindness, and that it should be clear to him that she didn’t want anything more.

In some ways, I think people of both genders need to be taught to know how to respond to unwanted advances before it gets to law suits and restraining orders. Certainly I had no idea that I’d be facing potential sexual harassment during the Articles application process, and I had no idea how I should respond to that without tanking my career. I am sure that I am not alone in experiencing unwanted advances in the job application process. And it’s clear that people worry about the effect of bringing complaints on their career.

It gets even more difficult when one is sexually harassed by one’s boss. Fortunately I’ve never been in that position, but I know others who have. It’s not like you can just storm out of there in a huff. You have to keep working with this person. And sometimes, no matter what boundaries you put up, or how often you say “no, I’m not interested”, some people will keep making further advances. The important thing, when giving people the tools to deal with sexual harassment and how to respond, is not to put all responsibility on the victim. The perpetrator has primary responsibility to cease harassment. Still, if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past 10 years or so, it’s that you can’t control how other people behave, but you can control the way in which you react to them.

The David Jones sexual harassment suit

By a meandering process, I now arrive at the sexual harassment suit in the news at the moment. In June this year, Mark McInnes, the CEO of David Jones, quit after being informed that a female employee was going to bring a sexual harassment suit against him. He issued a statement in which he admitted:

At two recent company functions I behaved in a manner unbecoming of the high standard expected of a chief executive officer to a female staff member. As a chief executive officer and as a person I have a responsibility to many, and today I formally acknowledge that I have committed serious errors of judgement and have inexcusably let down the female staff member.

McInnes had been a very successful CEO who had turned David Jones around financially. Press reports said that the behaviour of McInnes was in character, given that he was somewhat notorious for being a “flirt” with women. The female staff member was 27 year old Kristy Fraser-Kirk, a publicity and marketing manager. Fraser-Kirk has now brought the promised legal action. Her allegations are as follows:

It was during a lunch hosted by David Jones in May to celebrate its renewal of a contract with the horse trainer Gai Waterhouse that Ms Fraser-Kirk claims she was first harassed by Mr McInnes.

Mr McInnes allegedly urged her to try a dessert, describing it as like ”a f— in the mouth” before placing his hand under her clothing and touching her bra strap.

Ms Fraser-Kirk alleges he also repeatedly asked her back to his Bondi home ”with the clear implication that such a visit would be for the purpose of sexual intercourse,” the statement of claim said.

He did so on one occasion while lifting her up in a hug, in front of the general manager of David Jones public relations, Anne-Maree Kelly, and Ms Fraser-Kirk’s supervisor, Tahli Koch, she alleges.

During the second occasion at a function for La Prairie cosmetics at Tivoli Villa, a luxurious Rose Bay home, Mr McInnes allegedly twice tried to kiss her on the mouth before placing his hand on her stomach and on the bottom of her bra.

On both occasions Ms Fraser-Kirk claims she made it clear his advances were unwanted.

The following day she alleges he phoned her to meet him for dinner or a drink before saying, ”I could have had guaranteed sex with that brunette last night [at the party] but I wanted you.”

Fraser-Kirk has said that there were four other women who worked at David Jones who had suffered similar advances, and that the company was aware of three of them. Fashion designer Alannah Hill declared that she was “the brunette” and then said:

…she had a crush on Mr McInnes and that “I threw myself at him”.

“I wouldn’t be trying for $37 million, I would just be like, good,” she said.

“I would have gone back to that Bondi flat in a heartbeat.

“Yes, yes. I wish it was me. I wish he’d touched me up. He told me he didn’t want to mix business with pleasure.”

After a public backlash, Hill apologised for her comments, and proposes to hold a “sorry sale”, half of the proceeds of which will be donated to a woman’s shelter or sexual abuse charity.

Still, Hill’s comments throw up something that some feminists would probably rather ignore. It is this: some women like the kind of attention McInnes seemed to want to shower on any attractive female. I happen not to be one of those women, and my reaction to Hill’s disclosures was distaste. Everyone has a different place where they draw the line. I don’t mind catching someone “checking me out”, unless I’m trying to have a serious intellectual discussion. I don’t mind a boss saying that I look good in a particular outfit either. But if you put your hand up my top without my consent and touch the edge of my bra (as Fraser-Kirk alleges McInnes did to her) you’ll find yourself slapped in the face as hard as I can manage. I don’t care if you’re my boss or the Lord High Admiral. Being touched like that without my consent pushes my buttons big time.

The legal aspects

As I have outlined in another post, “sexual harassment” is defined by s 28A of the Sex Discrimination Act as follows:

(1)  For the purposes of this Division, a person sexually harasses another person (the person harassed ) if:

(a)  the person makes an unwelcome sexual advance, or an unwelcome request for sexual favours, to the person harassed; or

(b)  engages in other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in relation to the person harassed;

in circumstances in which a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would have anticipated that the person harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated.

(2)  In this section:

“conduct of a sexual nature” includes making a statement of a sexual nature to a person, or in the presence of a person, whether the statement is made orally or in writing.

Personally, I think it’s appropriate to have legal regulation to prevent discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace. Nonetheless, as I described in my other post, a close inspection of s 28A of the Sex Discrimination Act worried me, because it includes conduct of a sexual nature which offends, humiliates or intimidates.

To me, offence is very different to humiliation and intimidation.  Humiliation and intimidation seek to belittle the person’s standing as an equal human being in the eyes of the community. In a Kantian sense, the perpetrator inflicts a moral injury by trying to belittle the other. It is entirely appropriate to regulate harassment which is intended to humiliate or intimidate because it cannot be done without intent. By contrast, offense is a very subjective concept. A person may offend another without intending to do so and sometimes, without even realising it. Trying to regulate conduct which is offensive is difficult precisely because offense is so subjective. Anyway, that’s an academic debate for another day; the Act is the way it is for the present.

Fraser-Kirk has claimed $37M from David Jones and McInnes, an extraordinary amount.

Before we start talking about this, it is very important to be clear about the different kinds of awards of damages in legal claims, and the different purposes behind them. The most common sort of claim is compensatory damages, which seek to compensate the plaintiff for the loss suffered (or for the infringement of her rights, if you’re a rights-based scholar). However, there are other kinds of damages awards which have other motives at the forefront. Punitive damages, as the name suggests, are not concerned with compensation for loss but are motivated by notions of punishment and general and specific deterrence. Punishment looks to past conduct and seeks to penalise the defendant for that conduct. General and specific deterrence are forward-looking. General deterrence seeks to deter other people from engaging in that particular conduct in the future, whereas specific deterrence seeks to deter that particular defendant from engaging in the particular conduct again.

Fraser-Kirk’s claim of $37M is said to be punitive damages, not compensatory damages. Miranda Devine wrote a piece criticising the quantum sought by Fraser-Kirk, saying:

Woman who are raped don’t get that kind of money as victims’ compensation – they’re lucky if they receive $100,000. A woman who was raped by a navy colleague at HMAS Cairns was awarded less than $500,000 in 2007 in a sexual harassment lawsuit.

A David Jones employee who sustained a serious brain injury at work would get less than $300,000 in compensation under Work Cover. So why does McInnes’s conduct qualify for such a grand cash grab?

(emphasis added)

If Fraser-Kirk was merely seeking compensation for loss, I would suggest that the quantum she would be likely to receive would be on a par with those other cases. But she is not merely seeking compensation for loss. She is seeking punitive damages, which have a different aim entirely. If one is looking for why she is seeking to punish and deter, one only has to look at her press statement:

  • ”I’m a young woman standing here today simply because I said it wasn’t OK, because I said that this should never happen to me or to anyone.”
  • ”I believed I could have gone far if my career had been able to continue.”
  • ”Put simply, my whole life has now been turned upside down.”

Still, I do wonder how her claim will fare. Elizabeth Knight in the Sydney Morning Herald was doubtful about the motives of such a claim:

Punitive damages sought for the deterrent effect are uncommon and the damages being sought here are out of the ballpark.

It has left the average person and indeed the legal profession wondering why such a large amount is being asked for and whether there are other agendas.

Fraser-Kirk sought to head off claims of greed by announcing on Monday that any money raised from a punitive claim would go to a charity set up to help future victims of sexual harassment.

The trouble is that, given punitive damages are unheard of in this type of claim, there has to be a real question mark over whether they would be awarded – so is such charity a realistic gesture of philanthropy?

As Knight notes, punitive damages have never been awarded in a sexual harassment case, let alone in such a massive quantum. I do not know how open an Australian court would be to such a development, given that punitive damages are not presently available for breach of contract or breach of fiduciary duty in this country.

Conclusion

As other commenters have noted, the positive aspect of this whole affair is that it has started off a discussion of sexual harassment in the workplace and hopefully caused large companies to realise that they cannot just shove these kinds of things under the carpet.

As an aficionado of unusual claims for damages, I will be watching this claim with interest. I will not be surprised if it is settled out of court, however.

Update

As a result of discussions with commenters kvd and Paul Walter below, I’m starting to wonder if the massive claim for punitive damages is what we lawyers call “an abuse of process”.

There is a very clear legal basis for suing McInnes for sexual harassment, particularly given that he has admitted that he engaged in inappropriate conduct which seems to fall squarely within the ambit of the Sex Discrimination Act. I strongly believe Fraser-Kirk should sue McInnes and DJs for as much compensatory damages as she can. It’s simply unacceptable that behaviour like this can go on in this day and age.

However, there is presently no legal basis for a massive claim for punitive damages, and my advice would be that such a claim is highly likely to fail. Her lawyers must know that as well as I do, but I’d guess they’re using it as a bargaining chip, along with the attendant negative publicity.

It’s bad form to run a weak legal claim when you know that it’s likely to fail, but you’re really using it for the purpose of forcing the other side to settle – it’s an abuse of the process of the court – see White Industries (Qld) Pty Ltd v Flower & Hart (a firm) [1998] FCA 806. If I were DJs, that’s the argument I’d be running… The more I think about it, it’s a very dangerous strategy for her lawyers to be running.

Update 2:

Or maybe it’s not an abuse of process after all. This piece by Chris Merritt in The Australian suggests that as long as the basis for the cause of action itself is well-grounded, the quantum of the remedy sought may not matter (there is a distinction between the cause of action and the remedy sought in law). Merritt mentions the case of Momibo Pty Ltd v Adams (Unreported, Neilson J, District Court of New South Wales, 31 August 2004).

Neilson J was asked to consider ss 198J, 198K, 198L, 198M and 198N of the Legal Profession Act 1987 (NSW), which were added to the Act deal with the White Industries v Flower & Hart problem of unmeritorious legal actions. (This Act has since been replaced by the Legal Profession Act 2004 (NSW), but ss 345, 346, 347, 348 and 349 are in substantially similar terms to the sections mentioned above).

Section 198J provided:

(1) A solicitor or barrister must not provide legal services on a claim or defence of a claim for damages unless the solicitor or barrister reasonably believes on the basis of provable facts and a reasonably arguable view of the law that the claim or the defence (as appropriate) has reasonable prospects of success.

(2) A fact is provable only if the solicitor or barrister reasonably believes that the material then available to him or her provides a proper basis for alleging that fact.

(3) This Division applies despite any obligation that a solicitor or barrister may have to act in accordance with the instructions or wishes of his or her client.

(4) A claim has reasonable prospects of success if there are reasonable prospects of damages being recovered on the claim. A defence has reasonable prospects of success if there are reasonable prospects of the defence defeating the claim or leading to a reduction in the damages recovered on the claim.

(5) Provision of legal services in contravention of this section constitutes for the purposes of this Division the provision of legal services without reasonable prospects of success.

(bolding added)

As you can see, s 198J(4) stipulates that a claim has reasonable prospects of success if there are reasonable prospects of damages being recovered on the claim. The section does not say anything about the quantum of damages being reasonable.

At [88], Neilson J held as follows:

The fifth element is “reasonable prospects of damages being recovered in the action”. This formulation arises from combining subsections (1) and (4) of section 198J. An important word to note is the word “damages”. It is not qualified by any article or adjective. It does not require that a plaintiff recover “the damages claimed” or “all damages”. It merely requires the recovery of “damages”. One can properly construe “damages” as being “any damages” or “some damages” but not as “all the damages claimed”. At [44] I drew attention to the question of whether the statutory provision was directed to exaggerated or “ramped up” claims or to the more basic question of liability. In my view, nothing in section 198J affects exaggerated claims. There must be merely “reasonable prospects” of recovering “damages”. The applicants’ only remedy, if aggrieved by an exaggerated claim is under section 148E of the District Court Act or under DCR Pt 39A r 14.

Thus, an exaggerated or ramped up claim for damages will not be an abuse of process under the Legal Profession Act. As long as there is a prospect of recovering damages, it doesn’t matter if you say that you want 10 times more than is reasonable.

In other news, of course some parts of the press are now flinging mud about Fraser-Kirk. And people wonder why victims are reluctant to bring sexual harassment claims?

Update 3

The Statement of Claim is available online at The Australian. Fraser-Kirk makes no claims under the Sex Discrimination Act whatsoever in the Statement of Claim. Nonetheless, she has parallel proceedings under the Sex Discrimination Act which are presently being heard before the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC). She reserves the right to join the Sex Discrimination Act proceedings with the other Federal Court proceedings.

Interestingly, her claims are primarily for misleading and deceptive conduct in the course of employment: that is, David Jones represented that she would find it a “fun” and “rewarding” workplace, and it represented via its Code of Conduct that it was committed to a safe workplace in which bullying and sexual harassment was not permitted. She is also suing the individual directors in respect of comments made about herself and McInnes once the allegations became public.

She also alleges breach of employment contract, breach of duty of care to provide a safe workplace, trespass on the part of McInnes, and a “Claim in Equity” that she was induced to adopt certain assumptions upon which she relied to her detriment. (What is the cause of action intended to be, I wonder? Some kind of estoppel?)

The punitive damages are expressed to be in relation to the breach of duty of care and trespass, not for breach of contract or the misleading and deceptive conduct. As I have discussed in detail below, I do not think breach of contract or misleading and deceptive conduct would sound in damages in Australia. Historically punitive damages are available for torts because torts involve wrongs to the person and/or property, and this is something which the law is concerned to punish and deter.

14 Comments

  1. PAUL WALTER
    Posted August 9, 2010 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    whoops, big mistake!
    have Helen Pringle, who I think might be an academic, confused with Edith Pringle, back here in Adelaide.

  2. pete m
    Posted August 9, 2010 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    The statement of claim is available online via the australian.

    The claim for punative damages is based on the TPA, not contract.

    I support it. we’ve had 30+ years of anti-discrimination laws but we are getting enquiry after enquiry by women who have been sexually harassed. The laws haven’t stopped it and they need beefing up to cause a culture shock. Too easy to pay off the problem.

    It is time corporate aust sat up and took this seriously. Too many remain boys clubs and need a huge kick to break that culture.

    Ignore the sum sought – the priniciple is should a company that claims to be serious about harassment and gains employees with these statements, then leaves them out to dry and literally forces them to attend functions with a MD they KNOW harasses the girls – sorry DJ’s, but you need to pay for this and set an example to others where management is too gutless to act against each other.

    They need external investigators with these complaints. Too much ceasar judging ceasar.

    I’ll admit to some bias – my sister copped vile sexual harassment – verbal only – but completely disgusting. The company knew he had history and just moved him offices to avoid dealing with it.

    Smacks of what the churches did.

    This guy is a complete creep and alannah hill is too dumb for words.

  3. Posted August 9, 2010 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    I do think it’s different for guys as well. Think of those cases where a female teacher seduces a male student. Courts tend to want to treat this situation exactly like those situations where a male teacher seduces a female student. But…it’s somehow different, although it shouldn’t be. You often hear that the guy was discovered by boasting about his exploits, whereas for girls, it’s not something to boast about so much. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s the good old sexual double standard.

    The risks of sex are not symmetrical: women run inherently greater risks. Moreover, women tend to construe the emotional context of sex differently from men–in part precisely because of the different levels of risk.

    This difference in the emotional context of sex is obvious in the queer community. A joke expresses it nicely: What does a lesbian bring to the second date? A removal van. What does a queen bring to the second date? What second date?

    Obviously, these are general tendencies (and there is evidence of convergence as a result of technological and social changes changing the risk profiles). Still, there are good reasons to think a male teacher having sex with a female student is not identical with a female teacher having sex with a male student however much both are abuses of the teacher-student relationship.

    I am reminded of a story about use of guns in self-defense in Texas. Apparently, Texan courts allow women to get away with unloading a full clip into a home invader when men aren’t, on the grounds of different responses to stress. Men tend to go for warning shot, followed by straight at shot (adrenalin kicks in quickly). Women tend to end up in a corner with the kids behind them and nowhere left to go and then unload the full clip (adrenalin has to get through the serotonin[?] barrier: hormonally, the same reason why women generally take longer to get fully sexually aroused).

    I see no reason why equality has to presume identity. In particular, a lot of the problem with sexual harassment is not getting that, really, it is different for women and that’s OK.

  4. PAUL WALTER
    Posted August 10, 2010 at 2:05 am | Permalink

    A rocky comment from Lorenzo, but utterly agree with him in the main point, as to female teaacher s and other women persecuted for taking younger partners,
    Yes, there of course limits that could be set relative to actual paedophelia, rather than the nonsensical equivalency of male assault or exploitation of some times vulnerable younger or less capable people, altho its conceivable to imagine there would situations where an older woman might prey in some way on a younger and less worldly lover, that law might be able to take account of in ways not open at themoment.

  5. Posted August 10, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    We think both men and women need to be encouraged to speak up when they have been bullied, intimidated or harassed no matter what level.

  6. Posted August 10, 2010 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    The trespass to the person claim is interesting, building as it does on trespass as a per se wrong. I’ve long thought that quite a few of the laws in this area (and others, like much anti-terror law) are unnecessary, for the simple reason that many of the traditional torts cover the field. Think, for example, of not only trespass to the person but also assault (as a tort, sometimes called ‘battery’).

    Sometimes the cynical part of me suspects that anti-sexual harassment laws were drafted so that plaintiffs couldn’t get the kind of damages that would be available under the traditional torts.

  7. Posted August 11, 2010 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    LE: My Texan example was not research, it was from a talk given by Tobi Beck, author of The Armored Rose.

    But there is a minefield in the whole area of women in combat/policing. The Israeli Army experimented in the Israeli War of Independence with female soldiers in combat and apparently found two problems. (1) If a female squad member got wounded, the males would concentrate on helping her and (2) Arab soldiers would fight harder to avoid being beaten by women. There would clearly be significant cultural content to both such reactions, but that would not make them any less real.

    I am not aware of any serious scholarly studies, but your speculations strike me as very reasonable questions. There are, of course, plus sides to using women. Female bouncers can be quite effective, apparently, at defusing stressful situations.

    On the other side, I am told by a friend who used to manage a venue that female audiences at strip nights tend to be much worse than male audiences because of a more attenuated sense of when to stop.

  8. Peter Patton
    Posted August 11, 2010 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Lorenzo

    I don’t if you’ve read the same research which shows that gay men have the most sex, followed by straight men/women, with lesbians the least. My theory accords with yours; males and females have fundamentally different investments – and thus risk/reward profiles – in the sex transaction.

  9. Posted August 11, 2010 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    PP; Yes, I am aware of that research. There is even a joke about it: with lesbian couples, who starts?

  10. Posted August 15, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    @SL, at 58

    In the Anglo-Australian context sexual harrassment remedies have come out of employment law and address a much wide range of behaviour than, as you put it, traditional torts. They don’t generally oust such torts, but I expect at the time they were thought of as advantageous to complainants, including, amongst other things, in their assignment to specialized and non-costs-rules tribunals. I expect the remedies were also thought of and in fact at least before notions of causation and hence the scope of damages expanded actually were more favourable than what would usually be recovered for the actual torts committed in most cases. It’s probably worth remembering that, until recently, the principal “remedy” for a violent or otherwise physically unlawful act (eg rape, sexual assault) was the criminal penalty rather than civil damages.

    So I think the cynical part of you, while reacting to something that is definitely there, has jumped a bit to conclusions.

    Hope you are recovering from the assault. What are your desires for (a) punishment of and (b) compensation from the perpetrators? (Expectations in either case are presumably pretty modest insofar as they depend on identification in the first place.)

  11. Peter Gauci
    Posted July 5, 2011 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    We think both men and women need to be encouraged to speak up when they have been bullied, intimidated or harassed no matter what level.

    Men have a really hard time with this though. I’ve been there and done that.

    The law is heavily stacked against us. And employers can eg. be malicious referees and keep you unemployed and unable to afford little things like lawyers.

    A woman explicitly threatened me – in writing – for refusing to date her then made good on her threat with a malicious complaint of sexual harassment against me, a gay man.

    I was immediately instructed to apologise but not told the allegations.

    She eventually dropped her complaint when my employer (the University of Queensland) informed her I was gay, but my employer then went on to find me partially guilty on the basis of a completely non-existent confession.

    The ADCQ initially told me I had clear grounds for complaint but then rejected it without explanation. I then sought feedback from HREOC who advised me the ADCQ were wrong, and so sure of it were they that they ultimately broke the law to take my case on.

    I’m completely anti letting bullies have their way and I stood my ground for 5 years in the face a never-ending onslaught. But I wouldn’t actually recommend anyone else do it.

    My case was crystal clear. I’d complained about her repeatedly, she had threatened me in writing, I’m gay and later she faked death and rape threat emails in my name and sent them to herself. The police proved she faked them and got a confession out of her.

    But if you’re a man….

3 Trackbacks

  1. By Skepticlawyer » Sexual harassment and the law on August 10, 2010 at 6:49 am

    […] of care and trespass, not for breach of contract or the misleading and deceptive conduct. As I have discussed in detail below, I do not think breach of contract or misleading and deceptive conduct would sound in damages in […]

  2. By Skepticlawyer » And I broke a bloody fingernail! on August 11, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    […] a comment on another thread, Lorenzo made the following observation: On the other side, I am told by a friend who used to manage a venue that female audiences at strip […]

  3. […] former CEO Mark McInnes and former David Jones publicist Kristy Fraser-Kirk with interest, as frequent readers of this blog will know. The case garnered a lot of publicity because Fraser-Kirk’s allegations resulted in […]

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