Most employers implement policies and procedures to minimise liability which may arise from their employees’ actions. It is also important for employers to make their employees aware of the policies, train and implement them into the workplace, and penalise employees who breach those policies and procedures.
A recent case before the Administration Decisions Tribunal (ADT) shows how these actions can make all the difference.
In this case the Applicant, ‘C’, received a piece of paper at a training session from ‘L’ which contained sexually explicit material. C felt so violated it led her to the police station. C returned to work and made a complaint against L alleging sexual harassment.
C also sued her employer, claiming it was vicariously liable for the conduct of L.
The ADT dismissed C’s complaint against the employer and found the employer never authorised L’s action and took ‘all reasonable steps’ to prevent this behaviour.
This was established because:
- The employer had provided employees with relevant policies and procedures
- L was provided with the Code of Conduct on five occasions
- L had undertaken mandatory training on harassment, bullying, and the Code of Conduct on four occasions
- The employer acted upon the complaint immediately by conducting an investigation
- The employer apologised to C
- As a result of this investigation, L was disciplined and provided with a first and final warning
The ADT substantiated the complaint of sexual harassment against C, and L was ordered to pay $10,000 in damages to C.
To avoid your business being held vicariously liable for an employee’s conduct, ensure it is taking all reasonable steps to educate staff about what is acceptable behaviour in the workplace.
A good practice is to:
- Have policies and procedures in place
- Implement the policies
- Provide regular education and training sessions to all employees
- Deal with all complaints promptly, and investigate the situation thoroughly
- Penalise breaches of the polices and conduct
The Employment Law team at Everingham Solomons is well equipped to assist you with all your workplace relations issues because Helping You is Our Business.
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