A baker who sexually harassed his female assistant - leaving floury handprints on her clothing in the process - must pay her $19,000 and take classes to learn how to avoid doing the same thing to others.

A Human Rights Tribunal complaint alleged the man made unwanted sexual advances and physical contact over four months while the woman was working in his South Island cafe.

The woman's and baker's names have been suppressed.

The woman became sick of the man's behaviour and resigned, but was unable to do so in person and hired a private detective to deliver her resignation letter to the baker, the tribunal was told during the a three-day hearing.

Her doctor had diagnosed her as having "reactive depression" and she needed medication and counselling because she felt upset and humiliated.

In its decision, released yesterday, the tribunal said the woman had established a clear pattern of behaviour that included unwanted touching and sexual innuendo.

Although the man had no sexual intention toward the woman, the case "demonstrates the dangers of running a business without any understanding of the Human Rights Act relating to sexual harassment".

It said the baker did not see how his behaviour was unwelcome and unacceptable to the woman and unlawful under the sexual harassment provisions of the act.

He had shown little awareness that some behaviour "can be unwelcome to others, no matter how innocent they may be thought by the perpetrator to be".

The baker and his partner were ordered to attend a programme designed to combat sexual harassment in the workplace.

The baker was ordered to pay the woman damages of $10,000 for emotional harm and $9000 for lost income.