A Greymouth labourer who was sexually harassed by her female boss has been awarded more than $30,000 by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA).
Hannah Wilson was at the time working for Restruct Construction Limited, who were sub-contracted by Fletcher Building to work on the Greymouth Hospital rebuild.
Wilson, who began working with Restruct in April last year, told the authority she was sexually harassed by the company's sole director and shareholder Rana Hammond.
Wilson told the ERA during her employment Hammond engaged her in almost daily conversations about her personal life and whether she was "seeing" or "dating" "married men".
Hammond denied this was the case, although accepted on one occasion that she spoke to Wilson about going to dinner with a "married man", but alleges she had raised this out of concern.
After developing a cold sore due to increasing workplace stress, Wilson told the ERA that Hammond said to another colleague words to the effect of "you wouldn't kiss her, you might catch something".
The ERA heard further sexual harassment by Hammond towards Wilson occurred during a company raffle night on June 20.
According to Wilson, the day before the event, she and Hammond visited various shops around Greymouth to pick up items for the raffle including "tradies socks and underwear", "ladies gift packs", "smellies", chocolates, wine and some "joke" prizes such as condoms, novelty condoms, lubricant, false teeth holders and adult sized "onesies".
The pair also visited a local pharmacy where Hammond went in alone to pick up some additional items after asking Wilson to remain in the car, according to ERA documents.
According to ERA documents, after securing all the prizes, they went back to Hammond's house to organise the prizes when at one point Hammond left the room before returning with a green polka dot bag. Wilson alleges Hammond told her that if she was drawn in the raffle she should choose the green polka dot bag because it was especially for her – something Hammond denied.
On the night of the raffle, one of Wilson's numbers was called out. When she approached the table of prizes, Wilson said she was reminded by Hammond to take the green polka dot bag which had been set aside from the other prizes, Wilson told the ERA.
Hammond allegedly announced the room that this was a special prize for Wilson, who when opened the bag discovered condoms, lubricant, cold sore cream, baby wipes, a beanie and sexual health advice pamphlets from "wrap it with love" packs.
Hammond then allegedly asked two of Wilson's colleagues to come up and show the room the contents of the bag.
Wilson told the ERA she was absolutely mortified and close to tears.
Hammond denied the special prize was for Wilson or directing other employees to show the room the contents of the bag.
The next day at work, Wilson told the ERA, Hammond said she knew Wilson was pissed off about her prize but had been living up to her reputation "with the Irish guy" in the toilet.
Wilson said she decided at that point that she could not continue on with work as she was also experiencing stomach pains, and then did not return to work the following morning citing stress, lack of sleep and stomach pains to Hammond in a text message, the ERA heard.
Wilson alleges Hammond responded to the text by denying Wilson's stress had anything to do with work, that she does not follow instructions and that she was going to review her role.
On June 25, personal grievances were raised with Restruct on behalf of Wilson alleging failure to deal with her workplace stress and sexual harassment and Wilson went on paid leave pending mediation.
In his ruling, Andrew Dallas, a member of the ERA, said he was satisfied that Hammond sexually harassed Wilson on June 20.
Restruct accepted that the raffle prize Wilson received contained items of a sexual nature, but submitted evidence, consistent with Hammond's evidence, that Hammond did not tell Wilson to select the green polka dot bag.
Dallas rejected this for four reasons:
• The contents of the bag were wholly or mostly purchased from the pharmacy while Wilson was requested to stay in the car by Hammond.
• While there were other "green bags", the green polka bag, on Hammond's own evidence during the investigation meeting, was a one-off.
• The prize was set aside from the rest of the prizes.
• The green polka dot bag contained a very specific prize: cold sore cream; for a condition that Wilson suffered and Hammond knew to be the case.
Restruct were ordered to pay Wilson $20,000 in compensation for hurt and humiliation, $7,000 towards her legal costs and three months' pay as reimbursement for lost wages.