Ex-Oracle worker wins higher damages in sexual harassment case

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Ex-Oracle worker wins higher damages in sexual harassment case

Award boosted by $112,000.

An ex-Oracle executive who was awarded the measly sum of $18,000 in a sexual harassment case against the software giant has won an appeal to the amount, with a judge today ordering Oracle to pay $130,000 in damages.

The Federal Court in February 2013 found in favour of Rebecca Richardson in a sexual harassment claim against the company’s consulting sales manager Randol Tucker, ordering Oracle to pay Richardson $18,000 in compensation.

Richardson appealed the award in August last year, claiming a number of legal, evaluative and factual errors in the ruling had given rise to incorrect conclusions and therefore a low damages award.

Part of the logic for the $18,000 damages ruling had been the handful of offers made by both Oracle and Tucker to Richardson on three separate occasions from September 2010 to November 2011 - which ranged from $25,000 solely from Tucker to $85,000 from both parties.

Additionally, because Richardson had been offered more by Oracle than she eventually received through the court damages ruling, Richardson was therefore later ordered to pay both Oracle and Tucker’s court costs from the period after September 4, 2010 - after the first offer was made.

Oracle was ordered to pay Richardson’s costs up to that date.

Richardson said in the August appeal she had rejected the first two offers as being too low and the third because it did not include a requested clause for a public apology and new internal procedures to avert sexual harassment.

Three judges in the NSW Federal Court today ordered the initial damages decision be overturned and Richardson awarded $130,000 in damages, to be paid by Oracle, after upholding several of Richardson’s claims around errors in the initial ruling. 

The three judges found the trial judge had erred in not finding that the sexual harassment had affected Richardson’s sexual relationship with her then partner, and had erred in awarding “manifestly inadequate” damages which were ‘disproportionately low’ to the loss and damage suffered.

“It was out of step with the general standards prevailing in the community regarding the monetary value of the loss and damage of the kind Ms Richardson sustained,” Justice Kenny said in his ruling.

The judges also found that as a result of the incorrect damages ruling, the logic underpinning the ruling for Richardson to pay Oracle’s costs up to September 4, 2010 could be abandoned.

The issue of costs for the trial will now be raised for a second time. Richardson's legal costs alone currently sit at several hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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