The Federal Court has ordered US software maker Oracle to pay a former employee $18,000 after finding the company liable for her sexual harassment.
The damages, ordered on Wednesday, are a fraction of the $450,000 claimed by Rebecca Richardson, a former project manager at Oracle, who said she was sexually harassed by a male co-worker, Randol Tucker, on at least 11 separate occasions in 2008.
Justice Robert Buchanan found in favour of Ms Richardson on the claims that she was harassed by Mr Tucker and that Oracle, as the employer of both, was “vicariously liable” for Mr Tucker’s conduct.
However, he said Oracle had not, as Ms Richardson claimed, indirectly discriminated against her or victimised her because of the events. The judge also rejected allegations that Oracle breached the terms of its contract with Ms Richardson.
He rejected Ms Richardson’s claim for $450,000 in damages, which she said was necessary to remedy humiliation, depression, damage to her reputation, loss of income, and “dislocation to life” due to work travel. Ms Richardson said through her lawyers that she was pleased with the court’s findings but was disappointed about the damages awarded and was considering options for appeal.
An Oracle Australia spokeswoman declined to comment.
Lawyers said the judge’s decision not to award damages for economic loss immediately reduced the final fine. “It’s a stark reminder of the fact that this jurisdiction is low compensation, in spite of some of the figures that might be bandied about in some claims,” said Joydeep Hor, the managing principal at People & Culture Strategies.
Ms Richardson’s barrister was Rachel Francois, who represented former David Jones employee Kristy Fraser-Kirk in a $37 million suit against the retailer in 2010.
Ms Richardson claimed that Mr Tucker made a range of inappropriate comments to her, including: “Rebecca, you and I fight so much... I think we must have been married in our last life,” followed by: “So, Rebecca, how do you think our marriage was? I bet the sex was hot”.
Mr Tucker admitted during the case to saying “You know you love me” to Ms Richardson, as well as making several other comments he described during the case as “innocuous”. But he denied several other comments alleged to have been made to Ms Richardson.
The lawsuit is one of a string of high-profile controversies Oracle has faced in recent years. Charles Phillips, its president until 2010, was targeted by his alleged ex-mistress, YaVaughnie Wilkins, in billboard ads that featured photos from their relationship. In 2010, Oracle president Mark Hurd, a former Hewlett-Packard chief executive, was accused of sexual harassment by contractor Jodie Fisher.Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison was one of his strongest supporters, and later appointed him co-president of his company
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