Worker awarded million dollar payout over years of sexual abuse, rape threat
Worker awarded million dollar payout over years of sexual abuse, rape threat

A woman who endured years of 'hardcore filth' sexual harassment, insults and even a rape threat has been awarded more than $1 million in compensation.

Victoria’s Supreme Court has ruled that Kate Mathews is entitled to $1.36 million from Winslow Constructors as a result of the abuse.

The court heard Ms Mathews co-workers had grabbed her by the hips and pretended to perform sex acts on her, shown her pornography and called her ‘f--king useless’, ‘spastic’ and a ‘bimbo’.

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When she complained about her treatment, a worker she believed responsible for human resources asked her out for a drink.

The court heard a co-worker once asked: "Do you have to go home and hide your dildos and play toys?"

Other colleagues told her that "anything that bleeds once a month should be shot".

"Kate, let’s put a pole in the yard and you can get it off," she was told once. "Did you get laid over the weekend?" came a different unwelcome advance.

One colleague told her: "I had a great w--k over you last night."

On a different occasion a worker told Ms Mathews he would "take [her] into the container and f--k [her]".


She complained to management when an employee said to her: “I am going to follow you home, rip your clothes off and rape you."

Upon complaining about the treatment, the employee Ms Mathews believed responsible for human resources asked her to come for a drink to discuss it.

The court heard that a previous request to work with a different team had been harshly dismissed.

"You will work with whoever I f--king tell you to work with," Ms Mathews was told.

She stopped working for the Melbourne-based company shortly after the rape threat in July 2010.

The abuse during her two years working with the company left Ms Matthews suffering bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as serious anxiety and depression, the court found.

She also developed a jaw injury from grinding her teeth.

Speaking to the media after the decision, Ms Mathews said the case was never about the money.

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"It’s been about being able to work wherever I wanted to work and they took that away from me," she said.

"Of course [I expected] the language and a little bit of joking around but this was hardcore filth, that I was getting."

Ms Mathews urged other workers who found themselves in a similar position to take action.

"If the bosses aren’t listening, take it further. Take action. Leave the work and take action," she said.

Maurice Blackburn senior associate Holly Pinnis said Ms Matthews had been forced to put up with behaviour that no one should have to endure.

“This case puts all employers on notice,” Ms Pinnis said.

“If you have an employee being harassed and bullied, you can’t sit on your hands. You’ve got to take decisive action to make sure your workers are safe. Winslow failed to do that in this case”.

Justice Terry Forrest said the torment endured while working at Winslow Constructions had led several medical experts to conclude it was unlikely she would ever work again.

He said there was evidence to suggest Ms Mathews becomes distressed at the sight of people in fluorescent high visibility vests or when she saw Winslow trucks.

He also dismissed evidence obtained by the company by covertly recording its former-employee on seven different occasions.

“I consider that real caution must be exercised in any personal injury case where a judge is required to evaluate covertly recorded footage of what are necessarily only fragments of a plaintiff’s life,” he said.

“The need for caution is heightened in a case where psychiatric injuries are claimed.”

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