A senior manager at a Sydney-based creative company claims she was sacked for reporting sexual harassment.
The worker told her story to news.com.au to warn others about the warning signs of a serial perpetrator in the workplace.
Senior manager sacked for reporting sexual harassment
*Jessica said the first red flag came on her first day on the job.
“When I first entered my new role in senior management, I recall other staff saying, ‘Here comes fresh meat’.
“I’d never heard that term before so questioned an account director what it meant.
“He replied, ‘You’re new on the scene for your boss’.
“A wave of disbelief came over me, as it had a sexual tone, and I recall thinking that couldn’t possibly be right.”
Working late nights
Jessica said her boss soon required her to work late nights with him in a smaller building separated from the main office.
During these late nights, Jessica described an incident when her boss stood very close to her as she went about her work.
“He stood behind me, I thought he was looking at my work, and then his left leg lifted up and his foot was on my desk, and his open crotch at my left ear,” she said.
“His hand was on his trouser crotch.
I froze, then calmly said ‘Do you mind removing your foot from my desk’.
“He did so, and then I packed up and left.”
The following morning, Jessica reported the incident to the company’s CFO, also a woman.
According to Jessica, the CFO confirmed it wasn’t the first complaint about her boss.
At her request, the company moved Jessica back to the main building and into the finance department where 11 other staff worked.
Jessica said her boss reacted badly following her complaint.
“Months after the move, he verbally abused me in front of the entire floor of staff.
“The reason why this happened, was because I had booked a sales call during a time he was interstate and with his mistress.
“The entire floor witnessed this, I sat at my desk shaking.
“And after a great display of abuse towards me, only one other man stood up and told him to calm down in a very gentle tone.
“My face was white, and I left for the rest of the day.”
‘It’s either you or him’
As a result of the harassment and verbal abuse, Jessica said she lost weight, started experiencing headaches and found herself at the doctor weekly.
After months of suffering, the company’s second in charge called Jessica into a meeting where she was told, “it’s either you or him”.
“I said, ‘But I’m the victim here, I’m the one who is being abused for no reason and sexually harassed’.
“But the second in command was firm and said that the company was built by this man and I was expendable.
“I was given two weeks’ pay and was removed an hour later.
“His reputation went before him.
“He gained my trust praising my work. He then isolated me. And then he slowly closed the physical gap. And when I resisted, he set me up to fail.
“He ultimately abused me, degrading me in front of others, making me out to be incompetent in my work. And finally, (I was) fired.”
Employment lawyer Stephen Dryley-Collins says it is common for workers to not complain about sexual harassment.
“Many workers are afraid that if they complain, they will labelled a trouble-maker and risk their job or future career prospects,” he said.
Mr Dryley-Collins says it is unlawful to sack an employee for making a complaint about their employment conditions.
“Workers who make a sexual harassment and discrimination complaint are automatically protected by the law,” he said.
“The Fair Work Act says workers can make a complaint or inquiry about their work conditions without their employer taking adverse action against them.”
Mr Dryley-Collins says any worker who has experienced sexual harassment, or been sacked for making a complaint should seek urgent expert advice.
“There are severe financial penalties for employers who engage in this sort of conduct and workers don’t have to put up with it,” he said.
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