A hospital coffee shop boss and two associated companies have been convicted and fined $290,000 for failing to ensure a safe and healthy workplace after multiple staff were sexually harassed by the boss and another worker.
The boss of both stores was convicted and personally fined $40,000 in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court for failing to ensure a workplace under his control was safe and without risks to health. He was the sole director of a parent company which operated one café at a hospital which was fined $110,000. He was also a joint director of a company which operated another café at a different hospital which was fined $140,000.
WorkSafe Victoria began investigating the workplaces in April 2021 following a complaint regarding persistent sexual harassment by the boss. The court heard six workers, aged as young as 16, were sexually harassed physically and verbally by their boss and also witnessed other staff being harassed. The sexual harassment included touching, groping and sexually intrusive and suggestive comments.
An older worker aged in his 20s was also accused of groping a young co-worker. Earlier this month the older worker entered into a 12 month diversion plan for failing to take reasonable care for the health and safety of a fellow staff member, agreeing to write a letter of apology and donate $750 to the Court Fund.
WorkSafe’s investigation found the boss’ behaviour stretched back to 2014, and although the café had an online bullying and harassment policy, it had no contact details to make a report and none of the employees understood who they could complain to. The court heard it was reasonably practicable for both companies to provide staff with an avenue for reporting incidents of sexual harassment, other than to the manager.
WorkSafe Executive director of health and safety, Narelle Beer, said,
"This case shows why it is essential that employers not only set clear standards but have policies and procedures to ensure they can prevent, respond to and report such behaviours."
To prevent workplace bullying and harassment employers should:
Hospital cafe boss fined after sexual harassment by WorkSafe Victoria, 27th October, 2023.
Hospital cafe boss fined after sexual harassment by AIHS, 1st November, 2023.