Documents seen by Fairfax show Shelley Oldham, the former senior vice president head of public sector at Capgemini, is suing the firm and former chief executive Paul Thorley, claiming she was denigrated, marginalised and sexually discriminated against.
Oldham has also reportedly accused Thorley of encouraging a “hostile working environment for women”, including claims he labelled the need to promote women in leadership roles at Capgemini as a “feminist campaign” that could “reflect badly on him”.
She also alleges Capgemini gave preferential treatment to male colleagues, required her to work up to 100 hours a week and failed to provide reasonable adjustments to her work hours and conditions after she developed stress-related shingles.
SmartCompany understands the case is currently before Justice Debbie Mortimer in the Federal Court, with Holding Redlich representing Oldham.
SmartCompany also understands there was a period of mediation between Capgemini and Oldham since she filed the claim last year but mediation has since failed.
Oldham is seeking compensation for lost remuneration, bonus payments, medical expenses and damage to her reputation, as well as for pain, suffering, hurt and humiliation.
Speaking generally about sexual discrimination to SmartCompany, employment lawyer Peter Vitale said in order to avoid discrimination of employees on the basis of their sex, employers have an obligation to treat men and women the same.
“The key is that you need to ensure that men and women both get the same opportunities,” Vitale says.
Vitale says employers also have an obligation under workplace heath and safety laws to maintain a safe work environment that does not put health, including mental health, at risk.
“That duty is imposed on all employees, male and female … the employer is obligated to ensure the workplace is free from sex harassment and any other sort of marginalisation or bullying.”
Vitale says one of the most important things for smaller employers to keep in mind when considering their sexual discrimination obligations, is when a female employee returns from maternity leave.
SmartCompany contacted Capgemini, Oldham and Holding Redlich but did not receive a response prior to publication.