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Sexual harassment case costs Oracle $AUD18,000

Things better left unsaid

A former employee of Oracle's Australian outpost has been awarded $AUD18,000 in damages after winning a sexual harassment claim against a colleague.

Rebecca Richardson alleged colleague Randol Tucker made numerous inappropriate comments to her over several months. Oracle, as Mr Tucker's employer, is vicariously liable for his action under Australian law.

The judgement in the case retells the sordid tale, which started with Tucker suggesting to Richardson that “you and I fight so much we must have been married in a past life … I bet the make up sex was hot.”

Things didn't get any classier afterwards, with a further ten harassing incidents making it into evidence. We'll spare you most of the the details, but there was even unnecessarily sexual banter in meetings with third parties. A witness said that in one of those meetings, Tucker suggested taking colleagues fishing on his boat, but that the boat was only big enough for him and Richardson, who would be his “boat girl”.

Ms Richardson eventually complained to her manager, who referred the matter to HR.

Justice Buchanan of Australia's Federal Court wasn't entirely impressed by that department's attempts to investigate and resolve the situation, partly because Oracle's policies and training at the time weren't ticking all the boxes required under Australian law.

Richardson eventually left Oracle for EMC and a role that, while broadly comparable to her job at Oracle offered $10,000 less a year in salary and involved a lot of overseas travel.

That salary and all those flights became a factor in the case as Richardson sought damages for physical and psychological injury and also for economic loss. The injury claims were proven, but the economic loss argument failed. Richardson's assertion that she was substantively demoted and forced to take a lower-paying job , nor did her claim that the disruptive lifestyle brought on by the travel in the EMC job would not have been her lot had she been able to stay at Oracle.

Costs in the matter are yet to be decided.

Oracle's not talking to media about the case, but $18,000 can be found under the cushions of the company's corporate sofa. ®

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