CITY of Gold Coast say they will fight claims they dismissed allegations of sexual harassment at the hands of a supervisor made by four former council workers.
The men who complained of sexual harassment by a supervisor have now filed a $1 million plus damages claim with the Anti-Discrimination Commission.
The four men claim the Council failed them by not dealing with a male supervisor who behaved in a sleazy way toward them and made their working conditions intolerable.
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They have now filed a $1 million plus damages claim with the Anti-Discrimination Commission.
A Gold Coast City Council spokesperson told myGC.com.au they intend to “strongly contest the allegations.”
The men’s lawyer, Bruce Simmonds, said when the men complained about the supervisor’s unwelcome behaviour, the Council instead dismissed the complainants.
Consequently the four men have launched their legal actions to the Anti Discrimination Commission and WorkCover.
Mr Simmonds, Litigation Director of Gold Coast law firm Parker Simmonds Solicitors and Lawyers, said the city council was being made to own up to its failure to protect its workers from unwelcome sexual harassment and bullying.
In their statement accompanying their claim the four workers detailed various sleazy actions committed against them by a male supervisor at a Gold Coast City Council depot last year. Mr Simmonds said the men did not want to be publicly identified because they felt ashamed and embarrassed by being sexually victimised by another male. The supervisor cannot be named for legal reasons.
However the four detailed their experiences over a prolonged period which included the supervisor indecently assaulting one worker multiple times, making suggestive comments to others “in a creepy gay voice” and multiple instances of inappropriate touching, grabbing or rubbing the mens’ bottoms, and repeated sexual innuendo accompanied by unwelcome touching.
The men say they regularly complained to a Council superior about the supervisor’s behaviour but nothing was done to rein him in or discipline him and the complainants were effectively told to appreciate that was “just how things are…get used to it”.
“The men feel there was no support from the Council when they complained of the supervisor’s behaviour and indeed they were intimidated by fears they may go the way of another worker who was sacked after complaining about similar sexual harassment from the same supervisor,” Mr Simmonds said.
He said full details of the harassment would be disclosed at the hearings but for legal reasons the identities of those involved could not be publicly disclosed, nor any details of where the men worked as this could identify those involved.
“The men were eventually sacked for reasons that will be explored in the claims they have lodged but there seems to have been a weird and bizarre culture within the Gold Coast City Council to protect a serial sleaze,” he said.
“The supervisor’s behaviour can’t be excused as immaturity or good natured workplace humour. The supervisor and the council knew the men were distressed by it and yet nothing was done to stop what was, in effect, workplace bullying,” Mr Simmonds said.
He said the four workers had suffered considerable mental anguish from their ordeal and it was time the Council confronted its failure to protect them.
The men were seeking more than $200,000 damages each and their combined claims exceeded $1 million against the City Council and the supervisor who was still employed there.