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Sexually harassed police officer entitled to compensation, IR commission rules

A female police officer whose workers’ compensation claim for sexual harassment was rejected has successfully appealed the decision.

Her initial claim for a psychiatric injury was rejected on the grounds that the sexual harassment she received from a male colleague was not work related.

The incident happened at a workplace social club Christmas party, which the Coolangatta Police Station contended did not organise, had not paid for and was optional for employees to attend.

However, in the appeal hearing, Queensland Industrial Relations Commissioner John Thompson found that function was work related as the employer had actively encouraged and enabled staff to attend.

Coolangatta Police Station had arranged for other workers from a nearby police station to provide cover so its workers could attend the function.

At the party, a fellow police officer approached the woman and made a number of unwelcome comments which included “I’m going to f— you”, “Don’t you want my big c—“, and “I’m a 10 on the r— scale”. He also put his arm around her and attempted to kiss her.

Days following the event, the woman was rostered to work with the male police officer. She called in sick to avoid him.

When the female police officer then arranged to meet with the police station’s senior sergeant to discuss having to work with the male police officer, he told her “just do your job”.

He said the sexual harassment incident was not the police officer’s fault as “people were questioning his sexuality and he is very young”.

The female police officer then made a formal complaint to the Queensland Police Internal Investigation Group, Ethical Standards Command. This upset the senior sergeant who said the matter should have been handled “in house”. “You’ve brought Coolie in the s— again,” he said.

The senior sergeant told her that the investigation group “will go through everything” and to “get ready mentally” because the complaint process is “going to go on for a long time”.

Upon hearing about the complaint, two other police officers told her that she was “f—ed”.

The senior sergeant’s and colleagues’ responses to the female police officer’s complaint added to her stress.

Commissioner Thompson found that the psychological injury the police officer sustained had arisen out of the course of her employment and upheld the appeal.

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