Rivers Australia boss Philip Goodman was back in court yesterday over sexual harassment claims, as experts renew their urgent warnings for businesses to implement workplace policy and training programs.
Goodman, the sole director of Rivers, has been accused of grabbing a young designer’s breast and bottom, forcing her to model underwear, regularly making inappropriate comments and making her take photographs of a naked model.
This is just one of two sexual harassment cases against Goodman.
In February this year, former employee Rachael Adamopoulos filed a Federal Court claim against the Rivers director saying he harassed her by trying to make her wear a cat-suit and calling her “Pussy Galore”.
The more recent case has been ongoing since early 2011, but yesterday was the first time the case had appeared in court.
Goodman has denied the claims, but designer Sallyanne Robinson told the Federal Court yesterday he would frequently tell her how attractive she was and said men would be desperate to “get into her pants”, according to News.com.au.
Upon a visit to a Rivers store in late 2011, Goodman is alleged to have patted her on the bottom and grabbed her left breast after speaking to her about breast enlargements.
“He was the boss of the company… I was absolutely petrified,” Robinson said, as quoted by News.com.au.
SmartCompany contacted Rivers Australia but received no response prior to publication.
Holding Redlich partner Charles Power told SmartCompany for behaviour to be considered unlawful sexual harassment it needs to fit a number of “tests”.
“It has to be sexual conduct and there is a very broad scope of what the court tribunals consider sexual conduct,” he says.
“It has to be unwanted and not reciprocal and it needs to be in a situation where the alleged victim is not inviting, seeking or consenting to the behaviour.”
Power says this is a subjective test based largely upon the victim’s statement, but there is also a third test which gives the accused some protections.
“For the third test, is it has to occur in circumstances where a reasonable person would find it humiliating, intimidating or offensive.
“That’s a safeguard to give you some protection to the alleged perpetrator in the sense that if no reasonable person would think what had happened was humiliating, intimidating or offensive, then unlawful sexual harassment hasn’t occurred,” he says.
From the perspective of the employer, liability arises if the behaviour occurs in connection with the person’s employment and the employer has not taken reasonable precautions to prevent the conduct.
“Sexual harassment can be established even in situations not in the workplace, they can be staying in accommodation for their work during a work trip,” Power says.
“Or, when there is continuing harassment in the workplace and then the employees go out for drinks unrelated to work and the act of sexual harassment occurs as an extension and continuation of the workplace behaviour.”
Power says to prevent liability businesses need to have set policies which set rule for appropriate workplace behaviour.
“A policy is necessary and also some effort as well to communicate that policy to people in the workplace.
“It also depends on the way the employer responds at the time in response to a complaint or a report that someone is behaving in a manner contrary to the policy or sexual harassment laws.”