A former TRUenergy employee has sued the company for unfair dismissal, accusing the business of harbouring a culture of sexual harassment so bad the human resources director had to actively monitor the managing director for anything inappropriate.
The dismissal case is the second high profile court battle concerning sexual harassment under way. Rivers Australia is facing a suit from an employee accusing its managing director of inappropriate behaviour.
TRUenergy, which is now known as Energy Australia, is being sued by Kate Shea, its former head of corporate and government affairs, saying she was unfairly dismissed after she reported allegations of sexual harassment.
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She has specifically named chief financial officer Kevin Holmes, who has since left the company.
Energy Australia was contacted by SmartCompany this morning, but declined to comment.
Kate Shea’s counsel, Charles Gunst, QC, was also contacted, but no reply was available prior to publication.
Shea accused Holmes in court of harassing her at a work function in 2010. An investigation was triggered shortly after Shea issued a complaint, but her employment was terminated soon after in a company restructure.
Only Shea and another employee were made redundant, it was claimed.
According to Fairfax, Gunst said in court there were other instances of sexual harassment and intimidation, claiming the managing director, Richard McIndoe, was watched closely by the director of human resources at a Christmas party.
“Within a matter of weeks…he tried to sack her. Nothing else happened, she hadn’t mucked up at work,” Gunst said. “Things happened very quickly once he was implicated.”
Energy Australia counsel Justin Bourke said there was no culture of sexual harassment, citing the initial investigation after a complaint was made, and said there were legitimate reasons for her termination.
The case highlights the difficulty in discerning between redundancies and actual sackings. Experts on SmartCompany have warned about this problem, and have encouraged small businesses to read up on their responsibilities.