Innovation

Rivers boss settles out of court in sexual harassment case

Patrick Stafford /

The sexual harassment case against Rivers Australia boss Philip Goodman has now reportedly been settled out of court, in what has become a common development for these types of lawsuits.

After several days in court, during which employee Sallyanne Robinson accused Rivers boss Philip Goodman of inappropriately touching her and making harassing remarks, the two parties have settled.

The move echoes similar cases, such as the suit brought against Mark McInnes, who was managing director of David Jones at the time. It too settled out of court, while a more recent case involving Oracle made the rare move of actually reaching a decision.

But the popularity of settling outside of court for sexual harassment isn’t necessarily a decision made out of financial necessity, says industrial relations expert Peter Vitale.

“A lot of these cases – if you believe the rumours – settle for a greater amount than the damages that might have been awarded at trial,” he says.

“At the end of the day, some mud is going to stick to the business. That’s the first main reason these cases tend to settle outside of trial.

“The second is that the cost of defending these claims is a financial drain, and a drain on management time as well.”

Rivers Australia was contacted by SmartCompany today, but no reply was available prior to publication.

The Herald Sun has reported the matter has settled outside of court, shortly before two other Rivers employees were granted approval to testify.

Among the claims levelled at Goodman were that he forced Robinson to model lingerie and touched her breasts. Another employee was reportedly scheduled to testify, who would have accused Goodman of calling her pet names.

Vitale says settlements are also common in adverse action cases, which often coincide with sexual harassment cases.

Adverse action claims require the employer to bear the standard of proof.

“You’ll often have an adverse action claim tied up with a discrimination claim on the basis there has been a complaint about the alleged conduct, and then a reaction.

“That can often be an incentive to settle.”

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Patrick Stafford

Patrick Stafford is a freelance journalist and a former deputy editor of SmartCompany.

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