Just this week, a former employee at Oracle Australia was awarded $130,000 for the distress she experienced from being sexually harassed by a male colleague at the company.
You would think that a global organisation like Oracle, who has every resource at hand, would be at the top of their game in protecting their employees from any type of harassment.
What can we learn from this case?
1. The eLearning Training Course was not Compliant.
Justice Buchanan found that the online training program was inadequate because it did not meet the minimum standard set out in Sexual Harassment in the Workplace of Australia.
There has been a shift in organisations, which are trying to manage costs and time pressures, to deliver online eLearning programs for all types of training. Sure, there are benefits, but have we forgotten the very reason that the training is provided? Is it just to tick a box to say compliance obligations have been met or is there a need to inform and seek behavioural change in employees?
Workplace harassment and bullying can be subtle in its form. It can also be inextricably linked to organisational culture. So, are organisations realistic in thinking that a simple eLearning program can meet their obligations?
2. Face-To-Face Harassment Training is Required
Oracle has learnt it the hard way. The company has now introduced a new workplace diversity policy, which requires face-to-face harassment training.
We have run face-to-face sexual harassment and bullying programs for leading companies for over 17 years. We have always found that the greatest learning happens through the discussions in the classroom, the sharing of real life examples and the asking of questions.
3. Community Standards have Changed.
The Oracle manager who harassed the female manager was initially fined $18,000, but when he appealed ,the judge increased this to $130,000, stating that community standards demanded higher compensation in #sexual harassment cases
4. Future Cases of Sexual Harassment Could Award Higher Compensation
General Counsel Margaret Diamond, who was one of the team members at Harmers Workplace Lawyers that represented the female manager in the case, said that, from now on, “courts are likely to take a more respectful and realistic view of the impact of sexual harassment on complainants in making awards of general damages”.
I think that Human Resources in all companies should take stock. The tide has turned in these cases and we must be sure that we have the correct training in place for our employees and managers to both protect them from predators and also minimize risk to the company through lack of correct training.