“I can teach you a lot about sex” is what an IFM senior executive told a colleague who subsequently sued for sexual harassment.
Additionally, the woman sued for constructive dismissal, claiming the harassment forced her to leave the company.
In the end, the global and infrastructure firm paid the woman $500,000 compensation.
‘I can teach you a lot about sex’
27 year-old Nathalie Abildgaard alleged 50 year-old Frederic Michel-Verdier, who is married, sexually harassed her.
The harassment allegedly happened at the BlingBling nightclub during a work trip in Madrid in March last year.
Michel-Verdier allegedly made advances to the younger woman after a dinner to celebrate the closing of a deal.
He subsequently tried to get her to come to his hotel room by sending her WhatsApp messages with his hotel room number.
“I am so much older than you. You are young. I can teach you a lot about sex.”
Abildgaard also claimed the senior executive tried to follow her to her hotel room.
She argued the on-going harassment forced her to leave IFM’s London office earlier than she planned to.
As a result, she launched a sexual harassment and constructive dismissal claim.
No non-disclosure agreement
The case subsequently resulted in an eight-day trial, however, before final oral submissions, IFM agreed to settle by paying Abildgaard $A493,000.
Normally such a settlement involves a non-disclosure agreement, which prevents both parties from discussing the harassment and the compensation.
However, Abildgaard refused to sign such an agreement.
In Australia, most cases of sexual harassment involve a non-disclosure agreement.
Non-disclosure agreements protect both parties
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan says non-disclosure agreements serve to protect both parties in a settlement.
“The downside of non-disclosure agreements is the wider community does not hear details of some of the things that go on in Australian workplaces,” he said.
“As a result, the public fully understand the nature and extent of the problem.”
Happy to be able to share experience
Abildgaard described the legal fight as an “emotionally and economically draining process”.
“I am especially happy that I can share my experience with others taking resource-rich employers to court for workplace harassment and raise public awareness of the barriers for individuals to get access to justice.
“I hope my story will encourage others who have experienced discrimination in the workplace to seek justice.”