18 August 2021
On 6 August 2021, the Industrial Court of Queensland set a new precedent for the State by ordering a sexual harasser and his business to pay $130,000 in general and aggravated damages and a further sum for economic loss to his employee after “tormenting”, humiliating and demeaning her for 14 months.
The case in Golding v Sippel and The Laundry Chute Pty Ltd  ICQ 14 involved Ms Golding, a casual employee at The Laundry Chute for approximately 14 months.
Originally from the Philippines, Ms Golding is a survivor of domestic violence and a single mother, receiving no financial support from her former husband and abuser.
Soon after Ms Golding commenced her employment at The Laundry Chute, the owner and manager, Mr Sippel, began sexually harassing and discriminating against her, including:
Some of these text messages caused Ms Golding to fear for her safety. She reported Mr Sippel’s behaviour to the police and did not return to the workplace.
As a result, Ms Golding suffered psychological injuries and subsequently received workers’ compensation payments. However, the Commissioner at trial found her medical condition was “not at the highest levels of severity. Her personal resilience seems to have aided her in avoiding or resisting many of the harsher effects which may arise from such conduct. She has continued to engage in courses of study, sought to socialise with friends, engaged with her children, and the like… her intangible losses fall within the moderate range.”
In light of the above findings, the Commissioner ordered Mr Sippel and The Laundry Chute to pay Ms Golding $30,000 in general damages and $5,000 in aggravated damages, following a trial in the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission.
Ms Golding appealed this decision to the Industrial Court of Queensland, where Justice Davis said that amount was “manifestly inadequate” and increased her compensation to $130,000 – an increase of nearly $100,000 for general and aggravated damages. Ms Golding was also awarded a further sum for economic loss, bringing her total compensation to approximately $160,000.
Justice Davis confirmed the purpose of aggravated damages is to compensate for harm made more serious by how it was done.
In this case, the aggravating factors were that:
The historic award of damages brings Queensland in line with other jurisdictions where, in similar cases cited by Justice Davis in this decision, damages in that vicinity have been awarded for some years.
Authors: Jackie Hamilton & Alice Woods
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