An employee at a jeweller has won roughly £91,000 in a sexual harassment case against her manager who “slapped her bottom” and repeatedly messaged her, telling her he had “developed feelings” for her and that she had “bedroom eyes”.
Fiona Taylor had started working at the Sydney-based jewellers in January 2018 when her boss initially made her feel “welcomed” and recognised for her hard work.
This relationship soon changed when her manager, Simon Grew, began to repeatedly comment on Taylor’s appearance, attempt to pursue a relationship with the 35-year-old, and send her unsolicited gifts.
Taylor was quickly promoted at the store, something she was initially happy about, but this feeling soon changed when Grew confessed he had feelings for her in January 2020, two years after she had joined.
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“I can’t hold it inside any longer…..I think you’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen,” Taylor alleges Grew told her. “We get along so well, we like the same things. My – my children don’t need a mother, they need a friend …”
Grew made these comments despite knowing Taylor was in a relationship, forcing her to “put down some boundaries and “keep things work related”, the court heard.
Yet, Grew continued to pursue Taylor, the judge heard, buying her 19 unsolicited gifts during her time of work, including a Chanel coin purse, Michael Kors designer bomber jacket, and jewellery worth thousands of pounds.
The judgement was made clear when unsolicited messages sent to Taylor from Grew were highlighted. Grew reportedly sent messages to the effect of “I like petite curvy brunettes”; “You have a beautiful body”; “You have bedroom eyes”; “You’re not just enough, you are actually 100 per cent perfect”; and “Even your ‘flaws’ are perfect”.
These sustained texts left Taylor feeling withdrawn and anxious, and reportedly struggling with sleep, the judgement found. As a result, she won 172,018 Australian Dollars (£91,056) for sexual harassment –reportedly a record under Australia’s Sex Discrimination Act.
It’s important for employees to understand the seriousness of sending inappropriate messages to colleagues.
The above case is clearly harassment but is ingrained in sex discrimination and the sexualisation of women in the workplace. When this type of behaviour comes from a manager, employees can often feel helpless due to this power dynamic.
Therefore, it’s important there are various channels for staff to voice a grievance, as they might not feel confident enough to tell someone if they feel there isn’t an unbiased actor in the company. This becomes more important as the laws around sexual harassment change in the UK in the new year.
Employment lawyer, and Keystone Law’s employment partner Michelle Last, comments: "Sexual harassment and assault at work is never acceptable and employers should take a zero-tolerance approach. Unfortunately, too many employers fail to take proper action, at their peril. The law on sexual assault and harassment at work will change in October 2024 in England and Wales, making it more likely that employers that fail to act will be liable for failing to prevent sexual harassment and assault in the workplace”.
“The effect of a failure to act is catastrophic for the victim employee, who suffers the harassment and/or assault. People who are subjected to sexual harassment and/or assault at work are seeking justice in some form or another and employers that fail to act do so at their peril. Employers are recommended to consider suspending any employee accused of sexual harassment or assault at work. We are facing an epidemic of sexual harassment and assault and we need a cure.”