Baker given dusting down over his wandering hands says he's innocent

By Jarrod Booker

A baker, said to have left floury handprints on an assistant he sexually harassed, has denied he let his hands wander.

The man, who cannot be named, has rejected the finding by the Human Rights Review Tribunal that he harassed the woman when she worked at his cafe in a South Island town in 2008.

He has been ordered to pay her $19,000 and attend anti-harassment classes, but has pledged to fight the finding against him until he is broke.

The woman, whose name is also suppressed, told the Herald that she "went through hell for four months" working alongside the man. The tribunal said the woman's co-workers recounted seeing the man's floury handprints on her shoulders, lower back and waist. But the baker told the Herald that getting floury marks on clothing was an innocent part of working in a bakery.

"When you pass somebody, it looks like maybe a handprint, but it's just let's say a dusting from my apron or ... if she's passing a stand on my bench which retains, let's say flour, the flour will be appearing on her skirt or whatever."

The woman said her colleagues would often brush the flour off her after he had touched her.

"Some of their responses [were] 'we know who's been at you this morning'. His excuse is quite feeble really."

The baker, who has had another harassment case taken against him previously, claims things that he said had been twisted, and "nothing has been said in a bad way" to the woman while she worked for him between April and August, 2008.

"I will fight this until the very end," the baker said.

"I want to be worse than, let's say, David Bain. At this stage, I would rather go broke and get justice than let her get away with $19,000."

The woman told the Herald she was not surprised the man wanted to appeal. "He thinks he can do no wrong," she said.

The baker said his wife was ill, and he was seeking to sell his business, so he did not have the money to mount an appeal. But he was determined to push ahead with whatever help he could muster.

- NZ Herald

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