Woman awarded $24,000 after being sexually harassed and stalked by a colleague

Woman awarded $24,000 after being sexually harassed and stalked by a colleague

Image: Getty 

A female security guard in New Zealand has been awarded $NZ24,000 ($22,600) in compensation after she claimed a colleague sexually harassed her.

The woman said the man physically restrained her, stalked her on social media and told her he would follow her home and watch her sleep, according to The NZ Herald.

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) upheld the woman’s personal grievance claim of unjustifiable action, agreeing her employer did not deal with her sexual harassment complaint fully.

The ERA suppressed the names of the woman, the male security guard and the workplace to protect the woman.

The woman started working for the security company on January 11, 2019, and for the first five weeks of her employment she worked at the same bar in central Christchurch. The sexual harassment then went on to start in February 2019, the woman said. It was verbal, consisting of unwanted and unacceptable sexual comments.

She tried ignoring the harassment and avoiding the colleague but the harassment only got worse. It escalated to the point where she was so anxious around the man she started having panic attacks and was increasingly concerned about what he might do.

The ERA found the man was “brazen in his behaviour and unrepentant, he did not stop the behaviour when asked”. It was found he stalked the woman on social media and told her he was doing this.

He said he would follow her home and watch her sleep, and there had been one incident at work where the man had physically restrained her against her will. After hiding in her car one night to avoid the man, the woman approached another colleague, who encouraged her to go to their team leader.

The team leader immediately changed the woman’s shifts so she was no longer working with the man. The business owner was also informed.

The owner sent a message to the woman asking to meet so he could find out what was going on. She messaged back saying she was scared to say anything at first because she didn’t know how it would “be handled”.

She said she had been sexually harassed and it had “gotten to the point where I’m scared and uncomfortable to be around him”.

“He just turned up to [the bar] and I got the worse [sic] anxiety and had to go in my car until he had left.”

The owner gave assurance the woman would be kept safe at work.

The pair met in early April 2019 and the owner said he was meeting the company lawyer to discuss what steps to take.

“I really don’t understand what’s going through his head, it’s like he’s trying to either intimidate me or something … I really don’t know what to do anymore.” In reply, the owner said he had told the colleague to leave the woman alone and that his behaviour could be considered serious misconduct.

From April until July there were various meetings and messages and the business owner told the woman he would investigate and report back to her. He said he would speak to the lawyer about the next steps to take. 

She reiterated she felt intimidated and said, “I don’t think he should be working in this industry in the type of workplace he is because of the harassment. It’s not something that should be taken lightly because of the extent of it and how confident he was doing it.”

The owner asked for a timeline of evidence so he could progress it to the next level and the woman provided a document outlining the harassment.

A month later the woman received a message from another manager at the company that said the matter was still under investigation and “you need to let us deal with it”.

The manager continued, “Personal issues don’t come to work and affect a professional environment because then it gets ugly. Just don’t let whatever kind of issue this is interfering with our business operations please, we’ve worked too hard to build a professional reputation I get on edge when it’s being damaged.”

On May 10th, police called the woman to say her complaint was a work issue and needed to be dealt with at work.The call sparked a panic attack and the woman called her father. Her father called the owner of the business and complained about the lack of action and support.

This prompted the owner to apologise to the woman. He also said the harassment wasn‘t happening at work so it was “a police issue now”.

He offered to go to the police station with the woman but then never confirmed a time.The woman’s father then contacted the owner again and said nothing had been done. The father had heard the colleague accused of sexual harassment had been telling others at work everything was made up.

The father asked, “What are your steps to getting this solved or have you lied to me and swept it under the carpet?”

The ERA found that despite meetings and messages, the company had not completed the investigation into sexual harassment. This had come after the woman had trusted that the owner would resolve the complaint. She hadn’t received a report and no outcome had been reported to her.

The ERA found the woman’s claim for personal grievance was not that the company had failed to protect her but that it failed to deal with the sexual harassment complaint appropriately.

It found the woman was disadvantaged at work because she felt unsafe.

The woman was awarded $NZ24,000 compensation for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings.

Our Partners