'Targeted campaign of terror' | Employee strapped to a crane at work Christmas party sues boss

Employee strapped to a crane at work Christmas party sues boss

An employee at a window manufacturing firm has sued his former manager for $60,000 (£31,447) after being hung up, upside-down, on a crane and poked at a Christmas work party.

Steve Yousif, the owner of window manufacturing company Jaden Commercial Windows, has been ordered to pay the fine after a court decided his actions caused distress to, and threatened the safety of, his former employee, Ilyas Elkharraz.

The situation that unfolded at the Melbourne-based company’s 2020 Christmas party was recorded on an attendee’s phone and shared on social media.

The video showed Elkharraz upside-down, strung-up on a crane from the ceiling of a warehouse. Yousif, the employee’s manager, is then seen slapping and poking Elkharraz after taping his legs to the crane.

Other party attendees can be heard laughing in the background of the video. Elkharraz said the event gave him nightmares, and that he felt “like a piece of meat” and “like a cow hanging upside down” when his manager started to hit him repeatedly.

Elkharraz, who was 23 years old at the time of the work party, quit his job at the company following the incident and launched a case with the workplace safety watchdog WorkSafe.

The court heard that Yousif bullied Elkharraz for over two years and had frequently belittled him, threatened to fire him, and often intimidated him. He recalled one occasion where his manager had grabbed him by the neck and pushed him to the ground.

The court magistrate, Andrew Sim, described the founder's behaviour as a "targeted campaign of terror".

The court ruled that Yousif was not remorseful and fined him $60,000 (£31,447) with conviction and ordered an extra $6000 (£3144) for WorkSafe’s legal fees.

Behaviour at a Christmas party

Businesses are firmly in the Christmas party territory right now. Although an extreme case, the above story outlines the importance of ensuring festive events stay appropriate and in-line with company policies and the law.

Paul Kelly, head of employment at Blacks Solicitors, says: “The office Christmas party comes round every year yet it’s surprising that many employers, and employees, are still unfamiliar with the basic rules that assure the party can be fun, and most importantly, disaster free.”

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“Beware of the ‘free bar’. An employer needs to make sure that staff alcohol intake isn’t too extreme or all sorts of problems might arise. Provision should also be made for those members of staff who don’t drink or may be driving to the venue.

“Before the party, it should be made clear that for the party to be fun-filled and stress free, bad behaviour is unacceptable and will be dealt with as a disciplinary issue. Employers should also be prepared to intervene if the merriment starts to get out of hand.”

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