Oracle Australia salesman denies sexual harassment

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Oracle Australia salesman denies sexual harassment

Alleges comments were "light-hearted workplace banter".

An Oracle Australia employee at the centre of a $450,000 sexual harassment suit has denied the allegations against him, saying any comments to his accuser were made "in the context of light-hearted workplace banter".

Consulting sales manager Randol Tucker also claimed the complaint by former Oracle Australia program manager Rebecca Richardson was lodged too late under the statute and that she never indicated that his comments were "unwelcome".

Richardson is suing Oracle Australia and Tucker for alleged sexual discrimination and breach of contract.

Tucker lodged his defence statement with the Federal Court about a week ago.

He repeatedly said any relationship - or attempt to form one - with Richardson was pursued in a "professional" context.

But he denied Richardson's claims that she was effectively his boss.

Tucker said Richardson held a managerial position "within the APAC Technology Practice" but said that responsibility didn't extend to a "large proposal for consulting services being developed by Oracle for the ANZ Bank", for which Tucker was the consulting sales manager.

He said there were "disagreements" between himself and Richardson at work but said they were "of a professional nature" and were a result of the "competing objectives" the two had in their respective roles.

"The objectives of [Richardson's] position, which included assessing risk in relation to the Project, often competed with those of [Tucker's] position, which was responsible for securing the sale," the defence statement read.

Tucker denied making "unwelcome comments and suggestions of a sexual nature" in the months following these "disagreements".

And he stood by the findings of an internal investigation conducted by Oracle Australia. He said that an apology offered to Richardson was "genuine".

Tucker's workplace banter

In his statement, Tucker admitted telling Richardson "words to the effect of: 'You and I fight so much we must have been married in a past life' ".

He said the comment "was made in the context of light-hearted banter and appeared from [Richardson's] demeanour to be regarded ... as such".

He denied adding: "How do you think our marriage was? I bet the sex was hot" nor that Richardson had indicated the comment was "unwelcome".

Tucker said he invited Richardson "via telephone and text message" to the after-party of a sales conference, which he described as a "team-building event" to "build a professional rapport" with her. Richardson declined the offer.

He said he told her the following day "It was a good thing you didn't turn up. If you had we would have ended up kissing in the corner."

He said the term "we" was used "to refer to the work team and corporate culture, not the Applicant [Richardson] and the Second Respondent [Tucker] personally, in the context of light-hearted workplace banter and in the context of the team-building nature of the event".

Tucker said he pursued a professional relationship with Richardson by asking her out to coffee and dinner.

On other occasions, he said he told Richardson "You know you love me". He said this was "an expression used in workplace banter between professional colleagues both male and female".

He also said: "Yeh you'll give it to her" at a meeting but denied Richardson's allegation that the tone "inferred a sexual connotation".

On another occasion, there was a discussion about the work team taking a fishing trip on Tucker's boat. When Richardson asked how big it was, he told her it was "just big enough for the two of us" - again, he said, "in the context of light-heart workplace banter".

He said Richardson "indicated that she understood this was a joke by laughing and responding in words to the effect 'good one' ".

New allegations

Tucker said Richardson had "never communicated" to him that the comments were unwelcome, contradicting her statement of claim.

He sought to rely on Richardson's alleged acknowledgement of the boat comments as a joke.

And he alleged Richardson had engaged in similar "light-hearted banter of a sexual nature" with him.

Tucker said this included a discussion "in relation to clothing which each of their dogs had eaten".

He alleged Richardson "said that her dog had ‘eaten her black lacy underwear' ".

Out of time?

Tucker sought to rely on a submission that Richardson's allegations were "out of time for the purposes of the instant proceedings".

He referred to a written complaint Richardson lodged with the Australian Human Rights Commission at the end of last October.

The complaint was "terminated" by the commission "on or about 12 April" this year, Richardson said in her statement.

Tucker said the complaint was terminated under section 46PH (1)(b) of the AHRC Act - because it "was lodged more than 12 months after the alleged unlawful discrimination took place".

Richardson said it was terminated under section 46PH but did not make clear the reason.

The commission can terminate a complaint if it thought it "could be more effectively or conveniently dealt with by another statutory authority" or by a court.

A second directions hearing was set for 22 October.

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