Ex-Oracle worker appeals sexual harassment damages ruling

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Ex-Oracle worker appeals sexual harassment damages ruling

$18,000 not enough.

The ex-Oracle worker who won a sexual harassment case against the software company has appealed a February ruling awarding her $18,000 in damages.

Rebecca Richardson was successful in pursuing Oracle over sexual harassment by the company’s consulting sales manager Randol Tucker, with the Federal Court in February ordering Oracle to pay Richardson $18,000 in compensation

Despite the finding, two months later Richardson was ordered to pay part of Oracle and Tucker’s court costs after the court found she had not suffered economic loss as a result of the harassment.

In the Sydney Federal Court today, counsel for Richardson argued a number of legal, evaluative and factual errors had been made in the February ruling which gave rise to incorrect conclusions and which, if rectified, would provide for a higher damages award.

In one example Richardson’s lawyers argued the judge in the February case had taken into account her opportunity for a pay rise at current employer EMC when determining damages. They argued such consideration was not also given to her opportunity for a pay rise at Oracle, negatively impacting the compensation outcome.

Richardson’s counsel argued that had the judge properly taken into account opportunity for pay rises at both companies, the damage for economic loss would have been around $30,000.

Counsel for Richardson read out extracts from the plaintiff’s diary over the period from 2008 when the issue arose, giving insight into Richardson’s deteriorating mental and physical condition and revealing she had been reticent to bring anyone, including management and human resources, into the issue for fear of damage to her reputation.

“My options were to tolerate it or say something and possibly ruin my reputation and my career. How much does that suck?” she wrote.

Once the issue was brought to the attention of HR and management, Richardson was forced to remain working with Tucker while it was being investigated. Richardson eventually felt she had no other option but to resign, due to deteriorating health and a belief her reputation had been damaged thanks to what her lawyers claimed was a mishandled investigation process.

‘No economic loss’

The court in April found Richardson had been made several offers since 2010 which would have benefited her significantly more than the $18,000 she was legally awarded - $55,000 in September 2010 by both Randol and Oracle, $25,000 in July 2011 solely from Tucker, and $85,000 from both Oracle and Tucker in November 2011.

At December 21 2011, Richardson’s legal costs sat at $224,475. Richardson rejected the first two offers for being too low and the third because it did not address the full range of relief sought — specifically a public apology from Oracle and new internal policies and procedures to prevent sexual harassment.

Richardson had initially asked for damages of $106,500, later revising it down to $45,000. The damages claim in the latest court case is yet to be revealed.

Richardson was ordered to pay Oracle and Tucker’s court costs from the period following September 4 2010 under a Federal Court Rule which states if an applicant is awarded a judgment less favourable than an offer they received, the respondent is entitled to have its costs paid in the period of time following the offer. 

Oracle was ordered to pay Richardson's costs up to September 4 2010. 

The case will be heard over the next two days.

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