Is it possible to claim compensation when you are sexually harassed at work?

Yes, it is possible to claim compensation if you have been sexually harassed at work.

It is possible to make a claim at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) under Equal Opportunity Legislation and it is also possible to make a WorkCover claim. VCAT can make a decision not to hear your claim if it is made more than 12 months after the harassment occurred, so it is important to get legal advice about your rights to claim compensation as soon as possible after the harassment. We can help you with this claim.

A WorkCover claim can be made if you have suffered an injury, such as a psychological injury, as a result of the behaviour. A WorkCover claim for weekly payments can be made if you need time off work and a WorkCover claim can also be made for medical and like expenses such as sessions with your doctor or a psychologist or psychiatrist. We can help you make claim and to advise you under WorkCover legislation.

If you have been sexually harassed at work and you have permanent psychological or other injuries it is also possible to claim common law damages. Any common law claim must be made within 6 years. Because of the time limits that apply it is important to get advice about your rights to compensation as soon as possible. 

Your first consultation is free and without obligation so if you want to know more about your rights make an appointment to talk to Penny and she can give you some more information.

I was recently asked to give a presentation to the Accident Compensation Conciliation Service and be part of a Panel discussing the role of lawyers in the Conciliation process. In my presentation I said that it was my opinion, that the sooner someone gets legal advice about their rights and entitlements, the better, and that in my view, the fact that many workers are now getting legal advice before Conciliation, is a good thing, especially for the workers. Generally speaking, this is because it is always better to get advice while the events surrounding an injury are fresh in the mind and while relevant witnesses can be contacted. The particular benefit of getting legal advice before Conciliation, is that people are simply much better equipped to make important decisions about their claim, after they have had a good long discussion with a lawyer about all of their possible rights and entitlements.  

In a recent Victorian case, it was confirmed that an employer was negligent for failing to counsel and mediate when it knew that a fraught relationship between employees was causing a deterioration in the psychological condition of one of them.

A trades teacher employed by the Box Hill TAFE, brought a case in the Supreme Court claiming damages for a psychological injury brought about by the treatment he received from a supervisor, over time and in twelve separate incidents. The teacher suffered from depression. Medical certificates of capacity given to the Box Hill TAFE by the teacher, made it clear that his psychological condition was deteriorating as a result of his relationship with his supervisor.The supervisor did not know that the teacher was suffering a Psychological condition that was at risk of deteriorating as a result of the relationship between the two. After the final, twelfth incident, which involved the supervisor having ‘blasted’ the teacher, the teacher was unable to work, and his lifestyle and enjoyment of past times were significantly affected.

In the Supreme Court decision handed down in December 2014, Justice Jack Forrest dismissed the teacher’s claim that he had been constantly bullied and harassed over a period of time and also found that he was a “totally unreliable and unsatisfactory witness."

However, Justice Forrest went on to find that the Box Hill TAFE should have taken action to prevent the teacher’s condition from deteriorating as a result of the final, twelfth incident, by giving the supervisor information about the teacher’s condition, and by counselling both and conducting a mediation. Failure to intervene in this way, the court held, was negligent and the teacher was entitled to damages for the pain and suffering he had experienced and for loss of earnings occasioned by not being able to work. For his psychological injuries the Court awarded $110,000 in pain and suffering damages and $122,000 for loss of earnings. The teacher also claimed damages for spinal injuries and was awarded $125,000.

The Court of Appeal upheld the original Supreme Court decision and the decision, handed down on 10 September can be found at:

If you would like to discuss this decision or if you would like to know whether an employer may have negligently caused a psychological injury in a particular set of circumstances please contact Penny on 97751371 or by email: