An employee working as a retail manager resigned after feeling sexually harassed by her employer. The employer would visit the store on a weekly or fortnightly basis and would greet the employee with a hug and an occasional kiss. The employer also regularly arranged meetings outside of work and would continually phone and text the employee.

The Employment Relations Authority upheld the employee’s personal grievance claim for unjustified disadvantage and unjustified constructive dismissal.

The ERA held that the employer’s actions did not meet the threshold for sexual harassment as the hugging occurred in the store with other staff present or else in a public place. The ERA did not accept the employee’s evidence of any accompanying kiss.

The ERA held that the employee had been disadvantaged in her employment by the employer’s arrangements to meet her away from the workplace and outside of business hours to discuss work matters. Other contact with the employee was also held to be an intrusion into her private time as it took place on days when she was away from work.

The employer also failed to act in good faith towards the employee by meeting with the employee off-site to discuss customer complaints without first informing her of the reason for their meeting. The employer did not provide the employee with all of the relevant information relating to the complaints, and did not seek her response.

Accordingly, these breaches of good faith caused the employee to resign.

The ERA ordered the employer to pay the employee a $6,000 penalty for breaching her employment agreement plus over $7,000 for lost wages. The employer was also ordered to contribute $1,000 towards the employee’s medical expenses for anxiety, and to pay the employee $6,000 compensation for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings.