Sexual harassment

How much for a ponytail pull?

A Hamilton business owner maintains he has the “moral victory” even though he must pay a former employee $5000 for slapping her on the bottom.

Ella Newman, 23, a former garden assistant at The Plant Place in Hamilton, resigned on December 29 last year alleging the business’s shareholder and director Bruce Sanson had “slapped” her on the bottom and sexually harassed her over the course of her two-year employment.

The matter went to the Employment Relations Authority which ruled the slap was done in “jest” and Newman was ordered to pay her employer $5000.

Newman appealed the decision, and on Wednesday was vindicated during a Judicial Settlement Hearing, where a deal was nutted out preventing it from going to an Employment Court hearing.

The terms of the settlement are that Sanson is to pay Newman $5000. He agreed to have and pay for an HR advisor to do one session about employment practices, with a focus on sexual harassment. He has apologised to Newman about the slap.  Read more »

Vexatious complainant gets slapped for wonky ‘bum slap’ complaint

A story came out a couple of days ago that shows the problem with our employee grievance industry.

A Hamilton woman who lost a sexual harassment complaint against her former boss after he slapped her bum has been ordered to pay him $5000.

Hamilton woman Ella Newman, 23, will appeal the Employment Relations Authority decision that quashed her sexual harassment claim and the decision to make her pay.

I don’t know who advised her, but this should never have got this far.


Especially when the Herald reported the following comment from ERA member Anna Fitzgibbon.

Authority member Anna Fitzgibbon rejected those claims, calling Ms Newman an unreliable witness and questioning why she did not complain earlier.

It sounds like she just made stuff up and was an ‘unreliable witness’, probably looking for a Christmas bonus or a trip overseas.

If she had such an unreliable claim, you would hope her lawyer would tell her such.

Unfortunately many employees like her use groups like Community Law, often light on lawyers, and assume employers are wrong no matter what. They then stumble along making the matter worse and fail to speak the truth to their client.   Read more »

Companies warned to “de-Suttonise”

“Poor” Roger Sutton.  He’s had his name turned into a verb.  Yesterday we saw the rise of “Doing a Sutton”, and today we see pleas for people to “de-Suttonise” their behaviour.

Employers have been told to take an “arm’s length” approach with staff this Christmas to avoid employment disputes in the new year.

The warning comes after the high-profile Roger Sutton case raised questions about behaviour in the workplace.

Employment Law Institute president Mark Nutsford sent a message to employers advising them to “de-Suttonise” their behaviour at end-of-year parties.

A State Services Commission inquiry found the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority chief executive committed serious misconduct for behaviour that amounted to sexual harassment.

Sutton admitted to hugging employees and calling women “honey” and “sweetie”.

Doesn’t sound so bad when you put it that way.  How about “women were momentarily restrained without warning and against their will while Sutton forced himself on them with an unwanted embrace”?     Read more »

By the amount of explaining, there’s a lot of losing

Oh man, this Sutton thing is just a political tar pit.  Grown men stood around a self-admitted sexual harasser, and one even hugged him.  This is especially poignant as unwanted hugs were part of the sexual harassment complaints.

The perpetrator was flanked by State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie and Prime Minister and Cabinet boss Andrew Kibblewhite.  Their presence, at this press conference full of spin, was to send a very clear signal:  “Do. Not. Mess. With. Authority”.

It didn’t work out.   And now they’re busy running damage control.

It was last week’s press conference that called into question the judgement of both State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie and Prime Minister and Cabinet boss Andrew Kibblewhite.

Mr Kibblewhite has acknowledged it wasn’t a good look. Now he has finally offered an explanation to the Prime Minister for “that hug”.

“He certainly offered an apology for the picture that that demonstrated, which is not one that he was trying to display, that he was siding with the chief executive,” says John Key.

Mr Kibblewhite, who earns $489,000 per year, told the Prime Minister he was there to support the rest of the organisation, not Mr Sutton.

“We’ve had a good conversation about something that I don’t think he handled nearly as well as he could have. He may have had the right reasons but the execution was poor,” says Mr Key.

Not a good look.

These aren’t stupid men.  They knew exactly what they were doing.  What they didn’t expect was the huge public blowback this would cause.  After all, the boys club, on TV, showing solidarity, the victim, keeping to confidentiality and staying away from the political roller derby that was busy trivialising her concerns and sending a clear signal that these sorts of things would not be tolerated.

So in the face of all that power and intimidation, what went wrong?   Read more »

Do people resign over hugs? Do people resign over sexual misconduct?

Well, the Sutton debacle got off to a very stage managed start.  But it’s spun totally out of control now.

3 News

3 News

The woman who made a sexual harassment complaint against Cera chief executive Roger Sutton is “torn up” and upset he has been able to foster public sympathy.

The victim has been told by State Services Commission (SSC) lawyers not to speak publicly about the case. She has repeatedly declined to comment when approached by Press.

The Press has obtained details of the complaint from a source that describes the nature of Sutton’s alleged impropriety.

They include:

– Suggesting to young female staff that they participate in “visible G-string Friday”.

– Unwanted, body-press hugs.

– Asking the complainant whom she considered to be “hot” and “sexy” and who she would like to have sex with.

– Calling female staff members “honey” and “sweetie”.

Anyone promoting “visible G-string Friday” better be working at a strip club.

But the allegations get worse   Read more »

High price to pay for hug

Mike Hosking joins the ruck

Just for the record so we can save ourselves the letters of complaint and the misconstrued outrage driven by those not hearing exactly what I am saying, I don’t for one moment condone any sort of weird, odd, unacceptable, strange, old world, dumb, inappropriate behaviour towards women in the workplace. Further, I don’t know the ins and outs of what Roger Sutton did or didn’t do at the CERA offices.

What I can say with some confidence is whatever it was, it appeared at the less serious end of the spectrum. What I know for a fact is it wasn’t serious enough to warrant a sacking. He seems to have admitted using words like honey and sweetie, which strike me as old world and tragic kind of terms in the modern workplace.

But if that’s it, can we make the argument that whoever the complainant or complainants are they have caused a great deal of harm over what I strongly suspect for many would be dismissed as misguided behaviour if not the silly musings, meanderings or mistakes of a bloke who in reality meant no real harm.

The whole problem with this debate is that we have become so sensitive to such matters, anyone second guesses themselves if not third guesses themselves before saying anything at all. Read more »

Stop telling women to smile

Beven Hanlon has nothing on this guy

Beven Hanlon is just your average union thug, who uses or allows others to use Corrections resources for his own political ends, and who has his own sordid little affair to try to keep quiet…but he has nothing on this union boss in the UK, who it seems is a predatory rooting ratbag.

A trade union baron described as a ‘sexual predator’ has  quit after harassing his  married assistant.

Jonathan Ledger, general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, was said to have had a six-year affair with Cordell Pillay.

When the affair petered out in 2009, he carried out a lewd campaign to reignite it – grabbing her bottom, exposing himself and leering at her breasts, a tribunal heard.

When his behaviour was exposed, the union is said to have mounted a ‘Jimmy Savile-style cover-up’.

Mr Ledger eventually resigned in disgrace and Mrs Pillay has now been awarded £15,000 by an employment tribunal for sexual harassment. She also made a claim for unfair dismissal after her sacking in 2011 over budget errors, but the panel ruled it was fair.

Although Mrs Pillay denied having an affair with Mr Ledger, employment judge Mark Emerton ruled: ‘The two had a  consensual sexual relationship dating back to 2003, when they were both  assistant general secretaries.

‘The relationship was sustained by sexual contact in the union’s offices and, particularly, away at occasional residential conferences.’   Read more »

Power, Sex and Len Brown

I have a mate who reckons that tall men always get women, and often as many as they want…especially if they stand on their wallet, their fame or their powerbase.

Catriona McLennan writes in the Herald about exactly this behaviour and that of Len Brown’s.

Powerful, older men caught having affairs with young, non-powerful women invariably say that the matter is a private one between them and their families.

It is not.

The reason is that the men have used their positions to obtain sex from the young women. This happens every day in New Zealand and all over the world.

It is a widespread pattern of behaviour which involves men exploiting women. Were it not for the man’s office, the young woman would not be having sex with him.

The pervasiveness of the behaviour means that it is not isolated and private: it actually constitutes sexual harassment and discrimination.

Pressure on the young woman by the man may sometimes be subtle. At other times, it may be overt. The young woman may receive the message that she will get advancement if she provides sex – or that, if she does not provide sex, she will be denied promotion or punished in other ways.

We are all familiar with powerful men with repeat patterns of behaviour of inviting young women to dinner to “discuss your career”. These men do not give similar invitations to men, or to older women who are new to the workforce.

Look at the legal profession, the business community, the media and other sectors – it is happening everywhere.

What these men are conveying to the young women is that it does not matter how qualified, intelligent or hard-working they are, their advancement remains dependent on providing sex to men.

This has been the case for thousands of years and each new example which becomes public reminds us that the position has not changed.   Read more »

Ways to avoid becoming a sex pest

With all the murk that has been thrown at me and the Palino campaign in an attempt to distract from Len Brown’s personal failings and his dodgy behaviour people have missed several points.

With regards to the affair it was never about the sex…it was always about the power relationship…Len Brown thinks that he can take advantage of a much younger woman, granting her favours regarding references, jobs and then perks including  what can really only be described as “quickie sex”. Never mind the serious code of conduct breaches.

With all the other evidence piling up in the tipline inbox that needs investigating it seems to me that there is a real problem with Len Brown that transcends a simple affair between consenting adults.

The Guardian has an article that applies in every way to the situation that Len Brown finds himself in.

Following an incident in which a female science blogger was called an “urban whore” for not writing a guest post for free, writer and playwright Monica Byrne updated a year-old post detailing an encounter in which she was sexually harassed, with the revelation that the person in question was Bora Zivkovic, Blogs Editor for Scientific American and a figurehead for the science writing community. Zivkovic confirmed that the incident happened, and many people were left confused and shocked.

Except it turns out that what happened to Byrne may not have been an isolated incident. A Scientific American blogger, Hannah Waters, then posted claims about her experiences with Zivkovic. It has been heartbreaking to see the ensuing flood of stories about personal harassment, abuse, and the legacy of trauma and self-doubt that it leaves. At the same time, it is encouraging to see that many people feel they are now able to come forward and talk about their experiences, and that many are trying to reflect on their own attitudes and beliefs, and learn from the mistakes of others.

So how can leaders combat this pernicious culture of sexism and abuse of power?  Read more »