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Sexual harassment lawsuit against Perfection Fresh commences in Federal Court

A class action has commenced in court against fresh produce company Perfection Fresh after the alleged sexual harassment of a dozen women.

user iconLauren Croft 14 February 2024 Big Law
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Proceedings have commenced in the Federal Court, whereby 12 women, supported by the United Workers Union, are suing fresh product giant Perfection Fresh after working at Two Wells Glasshouse in South Australia and allegedly being sexually harassed.

The women, all of whom are members of the United Workers Union (UWU), first lodged the action last year after being hired by a labour company and contracted to a 43-hectare farm, Two Wells Glasshouse, for Perfection Fresh.

As reported by The Sydney Morning Herald, the women allege repeated sexual harassment from two men in positions of “authority, trust and control”.


These allegations include instances of unwanted sexual advances, including grabbing the women’s bottoms and breasts, with one of the men accused of exposing himself to more than one woman.

According to national plaintiff law firm Slater & Gordon and the UWU, this action is one of the biggest workplace sexual harassment and assault cases in Australia.

Slater & Gordon associate in industrial and employment law April Zahra said it is the responsibility of an employer to provide a safe workplace for workers free from sexual and gender-based violence and that the firm is in support of the women in the action.

“There is no place for sexual harassment in the workplace ever. These women are working with their union and courageously coming forward to hold a powerful organisation accountable and to make workplaces safer for all women, especially farm and seasonal workers,” she said.

“Unfortunately, the information this lawsuit is bringing to light is not new. Sexual harassment is not only prevalent against farm and seasonal workers, but is common in all Australian workplaces.”

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), in a report released last year following the Personal Safety Survey, 1.7 million Australian adults (8.7 per cent) experienced sexual harassment in 2021–22.

This report showed one in three workers being sexually harassed at work, which was no change from when the survey was previously conducted in 2018.

“Many people think that due to growing awareness, incidences of sexual harassment are diminishing. However, in the legal field, we can see this is not the case. In my work, myself and my colleagues continue to see serious sexual harassment claims, with no sign of them slowing down,” Ms Zahra said.

“The migrant status of the workers on these farms means that these women are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment and other forms of exploitation. It is no exaggeration to say that organisations need to do more to keep their workers safe. These 12 women, through their union, have been able to speak up for vulnerable workers everywhere, and we stand behind them.”

In a statement provided to Lawyers Weekly, a Perfection Fresh spokesperson said the company remained "committed to providing a safe workplace for all workers".

"Perfection Fresh takes any allegation of sexual harassment extremely seriously. It has workplace policies and procedures on appropriate conduct, as well as processes for raising complaints and the protection of complainants," the spokesperson said.

"Perfection Fresh treated the complaints made against two employees very seriously when they were raised and responded accordingly. In both cases, Perfection Fresh took immediate steps to remove the persons accused of sexual harassment from the workplace and to investigate the matters raised. In both cases, the employment of the accused person came to an end.

"Perfection Fresh acknowledges the very serious nature of the complaints and the impact of the alleged conduct on the women involved."