SIGN UP for our newsletter ✉️ :

Get the latest stories delivered straight to you

Woman's sex harassment payout 'inadequate in extreme'

A woman's $10,000 payout for a sexual harassment claim against her boss who slapped her on the bottom and said it has "no meat" was inadequate in the extreme, a court has found.

The woman, who started working as a production manager for Gumboots Australia in August 2019, was sexually harassed by her manager six times between September 2019 and January 2020.

She alleged in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal that her manager contravened the Equal Opportunity Act after subjecting her to several instances of sexual harassment.

She said he touched or slapped her bottom three times while standing next to him at his desk, and told her "why is your upper body so big but your bottom so skinny - your bottom has no meat!"

Further, he put his arm around her and drew her to him, tickled her waist and gave her a shoulder massage.

VCAT senior member Susan Burdon-Smith found the man's comments were "vulgar and inappropriate", that all six incidents constituted sexual harassment and the woman was in a vulnerable position.

"She displayed a reticence to report the harassing behaviour out of disbelief, ignorance of the process for complaint, and a reluctance to upset the workplace," she wrote on March 30, 2022.

"She was required to remain silent about her allegations, and felt unable to cope with complicated and uncomfortable environment which was evident on her return to work."

The woman sought $110,000 in special damages, lost wages and medical expenses, however Ms Burdon-Smith awarded her $10,000 in general damages and dismissed her claim for the rest.

She appealed to Victoria's Supreme Court. The appeal was upheld by Justice Michael McDonald, who found VCAT's damages to be "inadequate in the extreme".

"The award of $10,000 for general damages borders on derisory," he said, in a judgment earlier this month.

"Whilst the respondent's [manager's] contravening conduct did not include demands for sexual favours, it was nevertheless serious and repeated."

During the VCAT hearing, her manager claimed she was made redundant from Gumboots Australia in March 2020, however the woman said she resigned two days after her complaint with VCAT was heard.

The judge ordered for the woman's case to return to VCAT under a different senior member, who will decide how much she should be awarded.