Matthew Backhouse

Matthew Backhouse is an APNZ news reporter based in Wellington.

Gay caregiver awarded compensation for sexual harassment

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

A gay caregiver whose employer called him a "f***ing faggot" and made an offensive limp-wristed gesture has been awarded $5000 in compensation for sexual harassment.

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) has also awarded the man $8000 in compensation for constructive dismissal after he was forced to resign during a bitter argument in January last year.

The names of everyone involved - including the caregiver, the 15-year-old boy he looked after and the parents who hired him - have been suppressed.

The caregiver, who gave evidence before the ERA that he was upfront about being gay, was employed to look after the disabled boy, who suffers from a rare chromosome disorder, in December 2012.

About a week after he started, the family went on a post-Christmas holiday. The parents agreed to continue paying the caregiver to carry out work on their farm while they were gone.

The couple instructed him to do outdoor tasks, including mowing the lawns and washing the windows, but had not instructed him to do any work inside the house.

The caregiver said he was not given a list of tasks to carry out and, because it was raining, he could not carry out work outside.

He called the co-manager of the family's other farm to ask what he should do, and was told to do chores inside.

The caregiver claimed to have carried out cleaning work, including stripping the couple's bed and washing, drying and folding some laundry.

When the family returned home in early January, none of the outdoor work had been done and the house was untidy, with the bed unmade and several dead flies scattered about.

The couple claimed the caregiver had been living in their house and entertaining guests, including another man who was seen near the property.

They also alleged he had slept in their bed and taken drugs inside the house.

A confrontation unfolded, with the boy's mother calling the caregiver "disgusting" and a "f***ing faggot". She also made a limp-handed gesture, which the ERA said was offensive to gay men, and mocked him for crying.

The couple demanded he repay his wages, and boxed in his car with a tractor until he had arranged payment.

The caregiver, who said he felt "scared" after 20 minutes of confrontation, told them he would call his bank, but instead called police.

The ERA found some of the couple's claims were "fanciful" and agreed the caregiver had been sexually harassed and constructively dismissed.

It noted the woman's claim she was not homophobic - and suggested she would be "well advised" not to use the language or behaviour she admitted to.

The ERA reduced the amount of compensation it awarded the man because he had violated the couple's privacy by entering their bedroom without permission.

It ordered the couple pay him $13,571.56 in total, including lost wages and costs.

- APNZ

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