In a recent decision, the Federal Court held that the term “a workplace” is broad and may include a range of venues and locations, depending upon the surrounding circumstances and the conduct of workplace participants. This case is a reminder to employees and employers of the need to keep professional and personal relationships separate.
In Ewin v Vergara (No. 3)  FCA 1311, an employee was awarded $476,163 for physical sexual harassment by a fellow worker, making it one of the largest court-ordered sexual harassment awards. The case also provides clarification on the meaning of “workplace” in the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) (the Act), giving the term a potentially broad definition.
There was an attempt to argue that the corridor at the entrance to the office did not come within the term “workplace”, but Justice Bromberg rejected this argument, finding that the aim of eliminating sexual harassment in the workplace would be seriously undermined if common areas such as lifts, corridors, kitchens or toilets were not within the scope of the Act.
And a reminder of the importance to employers to ensure that they have systems and policies in place that address the reporting, investigation and addressing of inappropriate behaviour in the workplace.
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