Over a period of several months, a civilian admin officer at a naval base was harassed by a naval officer. He repeatedly asked her for sex, intimidated her with offensive comments and made attempts to grope her. After she demanded that these activities cease, he stopped harassing her for about two weeks.
At this time they both attended an after-work dinner party at the home of two colleagues also employed by the Defence Force. The woman became intoxicated and passed out. She awoke to find herself in the officer’s house and he was raping her.
The courts found that the dinner itself would not have occurred but for the collusion of the officer with his naval colleagues. This was significant to its conclusion that the rape occurred in connection with the woman’s employment and, accordingly, that the Commonwealth was vicariously liable.
The broad operation of the phrase ‘in connection with the employment of the employee’ in the Sex Discrimination Act means that employers need to be vigilant in preventing and policing such conduct wherever it has the potential to arise. Contact your solicitor if you would like further information.
Reproduced with the permission of the Law Society of New South Wales.