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Sexual harassment and the work performance of a mother

Bullying & HarassmentSeptember 25, 2014

Sexual harassment and the work performance of a mother (Last Updated On: September 25, 2014)

Toni Thornton a former executive director of JWBWere, a wealth management and investment company, has filed for sexual harassment. She received insulting sexual remarks from her colleagues when she fell pregnant. The harassment didn’t stop there she again was belittled because of her gender and motherly responsibilities when she returned to work after having two children.

Thornton is a prominent figure in the company with a salary to match. She was harassed when she announced that she was pregnant. Her supervisor at the time Paul Health told Thornton that “in his experience a women’s IQ halves when she falls pregnant” and he also asked her to turn around when she began to show and said, “yep, you’re having a boy because your bum has blown out”. Thornton is suing for $4.5 million in sexual harassment compensation.

Once returning to work after she exercised her right to take time for maternity leave and part time work, Thornton was penalised. Her client base had dwindled to a third and her colleagues were “mishandling or poaching” her clients. She was repeatedly asked “do you really want to return to work?”
When she told her colleague, who was sharing her client base for her first pregnancy, that she was again pregnant he showed his bitterness saying that he was “pissed off, frustrated” he didn’t want to continue sharing clients.

This case is sensitive as it a clear breach of The Fair Work Act. It has significant public interest because it is a relatively common problem for women, especially in high powered roles, who struggle to redeem their rightful place in their previous position. Life should not have to stand still for working mothers, nor should it become more complicated.

If you would like to review your maternity leave policy or have any colleagues planning a family we can help you to give fathers,  mothers and mothers to be the support they need to feel secure in their job. If you have mothers or fathers returning to work it is sometimes difficult with SMEs as growth is more rapid and change is frequent we can help you to organise the most appropriate fit so that problems faced by Toni Thornton can be avoided. Call Employsure today on 1300 651 415, we are ready to take your call.

*Information sourced via the Australian Financial Review.

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