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Sydney Water to pay $100,000 in damages for ‘lubrication’ poster

A former Sydney Water employee has been vindicated after the Court of Appeal dismissed a request to overturn the damages awarded to her.

user iconLauren Croft 22 July 2021 Big Law
Sydney Water to pay damages
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Reem Yelda, represented by Harmers Workplace Lawyers, was featured in a safety poster displayed at Sydney Water facilities in early 2016 and said she felt sexually harassed by the poster.

The poster, produced by Vitality Works, displays a caption that read “feel great – lubricate” alongside a photo of Ms Yelda. At the time, she said she was “treated like a sex object” after the poster was put up, and subsequently quit.

 
 

In May, Ms Yelda was awarded $200,000 in damages — $100,000 each from Sydney Water and Vitality Works.

Vitality Works later appealed the decision and argued that they were not responsible for the subject matter of the poster as a “third party”. However, earlier this month, the Court of Appeal dismissed the application, in a decision which Harmers Workplace Lawyers said confirmed that Vitality Works sexually harassed Ms Yelda in the design, publication, display and distribution of the poster.

The decision confirms that Vitality Works will be required to pay Ms Yelda $100,000 in damages, which is the jurisdictional cap. Ms Yelda was not able to obtain full recovery of her losses due to the cap on awards of damages in sexual harassment matters that exists in the NSW jurisdiction.  

However, Ms Yelda’s battle continues in separate proceedings against Sydney Water in relation to the loss of her career. She is seeking additional, larger, uncapped damages from Sydney Water for mismanaging the situation. Sydney Water was also found to be responsible for the display of the offensive poster in an earlier decision of the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Harmers Workplace Lawyers added that “this is an important decision that confirms the scope of unlawful sexual harassment in Australian workplaces”.