$53k compo for having breasts stared at

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A woman has been awarded more than $53,000 after she was subjected to sexual harassment and racial discrimination after she complained of a colleague staring at her breasts.

When Melbourne woman Sudesh Kumari raised the issue with her manager at Della Rosa Fresh Foods – a pizza manufacturer stocked at major supermarkets, like Woolworths, Coles and IGA – she was told: “You are Indian, I don’t like Indians, they always cause problems.”

According to hearing documents, Ms Kumari expressed that her former colleague “staring at my breasts made me feel uncomfortable, objectified and degraded. I felt like I was not being respected and this upset me”.

The incident occurred at a workplace managed by Della Rosa Fresh Foods. Picture: iStockThe incident occurred at a workplace managed by Della Rosa Fresh Foods. Picture: iStock

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) also found that Ms Kumari was directly discriminated against during Della Rosa’s investigation of her complaint of sexual harassment due to her sex. She was also directed to take annual leave and transferred to another workplace; however, she wasn’t notified of the move until 5.30am the day she was supposed to return to work.

Della Rosa has now been ordered to pay Ms Kumari $53,241 in compensation for the injury, loss and damage suffered as a consequence of the pizza giant’s violations of the Equal Opportunity Act.

The breakdown of the payment includes $38,000 in general damages, $14,149.73 for past loss of earnings, and $1091.27 for past loss of superannuation.

The pizza giant is stocked at Coles, IGA and Woolworths.The pizza giant is stocked at Coles, IGA and Woolworths.

While Ms Kumari was terminated from her position at Della Rosa in February 2018, after making the complaint in 2017, delays due to lockdowns and other factors meant compensation orders were not given until now.

In relation to her sexual harassment claims, Ms Kumari initially claimed $62,000 for non-economic loss and $121,021.75 for economic losses. Della Rosa argued that it shouldn’t be ordered to pay more than $12,5000 for non-economic loss, and any award for economic losses shouldn’t exceed $500.

However, tribunal member Louise Johnson said an award of $500 in economic losses would “trivialise the conduct complained of”.

“It is well established that leering or staring can amount to unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,” she said.

“I consider that an award of $7000 in damages would reflect contemporary community standards in relation to this contravention.”

When reviewing the racial discrimination suffered by Ms Kumari, Ms Johnson said there were “no circumstance in which comments about an employee’s race are appropriate in a workplace”.

After Ms Kumari made her initial complaint, she was transferred from the company’s bakery site to a workplace arranging pizza toppings despite her wishes.

The former employee also said that during the investigation of her complaint, she was the only person required to go to the office of Bella Rosa director Emilio de Lorso, while the person she complained about was not required to go.

“She had expected to be heard and treated fairly, and in the following weeks, she thought ‘many times a day’ about what Mr de Lorso said to her and was ‘very upset’ all the time that she was unable to find work,” Ms Johnson said.

“As I have observed above, the initial contravention by Ms Kumari’s fellow employee could have been simply and effectively ameliorated but was actually exacerbated by the conduct of Della Rosa’s management.”

NCA NewsWire has approached Della Rosa Fresh Foods for comment; however, it did not respond at the time of publishing.

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