Director convicted and fined for sexual harassment at work

01 November 2023

A director and two companies were convicted and fined in the Melbourne Magistrates Court for breaching the Occupational Health and Safety Act of Victoria (OHS Act), for the physical and verbal sexual harassment of six workers at two cafes in Melbourne.

The conduct took place over a number of years at two café locations, operated by each company. The Director was involved in the conduct at both cafes, where workers as young as 16 were harassed by the Director and one worker.

The Director was fined the amount of $40,000.

A worker at one café, was also charged with a breach of the OHS Act, for groping a young worker. The worker pleaded guilty and was placed on a twelve month diversion plan. He also agreed to write an apology and pay $750 into the Court Fund.

The sexual harassment included touching, groping and sexually intrusive and suggestive comments. The companies had an online bullying and harassment policy only, without any avenue of reporting harassment, other than to the Director.

The companies, Whitelom Pty Ltd and Whitelom Investments Pty Ltd, were fined the amounts of $140,000 and $110,000 respectively.

Psychosocial hazards

Has your business conducted its risk assessment

The requirement to identify, assess and manage psychosocial hazards and risks at the workplace, has commenced in most jurisdictions around Australia.

Each Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU), is required to conduct a psychosocial risk assessment and consider the following factors:

  • the way the tasks or jobs are designed, organized, managed and supervised;
  • tasks or job where there are inherent psychosocial hazards and risks;
  • the equipment, working environment or requirements to undertake duties in physically hazardous environments; and
  • social factors at work, workplace relationships and social interactions.

The risk assessment must consider past bullying and harassment investigations, workplace complaints and consult with your workforce to assess the reasonably practicable controls.

Recently, Court Services Victoria, which operates the Coroners Court of Victoria, was convicted and fined $379,157, for a breach of the OHS Act. The Coroners Court failed, between December 2015 to September 2018 to ensure the health and safety of employees, where the employees were exposed to traumatic materials, role conflict, high workloads and job demands, poor workplace relationships and inappropriate workplace behaviours.


It is recommended, in addition to conducting your psychosocial risk assessment, that your workplace behaviour policies be refreshed, and retraining provided to all workers.

This article was written by Greg McCann, Partner.

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