Sham Dismissal results in $466,000 damages award

The unlawful termination of an employee has left an Adelaide company with a substantial pay out bill after a Court has found that the company concocted the dismissal of an employee rather than investigating her well-founded allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace.

After the employee received a number of emails from a co-worker inviting her to have a sexual relationship with him, she complained to her team leader. The complaint received short thrift from the team leader who told the employee she should expect such attention 'with a face like yours'.  Another work colleague sent the employee a sexually explicit photograph on her mobile phone and pestered her about a sexual relationship.

The Federal Court held on 23 June this year that rather than investigate the employee's complaints, the employer had chosen to discriminate against the employee - ostensibly on the grounds of poor performance. The Court found that these purported work issues would not have led to the employee's dismissal had she not been female and because of the employer's attitude to the harassment.

The employee's award included $90,000 for pain and suffering, $200,000 for lost earnings and $140,000 for future lost earnings.

The case is a stark reminder to employers to have clear policies about harassment in the workplace and particularly, the proper and timely investigation of complaints by employees.

If you require further information about dealing with matters of this nature in your workplace, contact Ian Curlewis on 9288 6756, email:, Michael Jensen on 9288 6944, email: or Benn Wallace on 9288 6741, email:

Disclaimer – the information contained in this publication does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. You should seek legal advice in relation to any particular matter you may have before relying or acting on this information. The Lavan team are here to assist.