A Melbourne woman who claims she feels ‘worthless’ and has become ‘a hermit’ after repeated claims of sexual harrassment and bullying over two years by a senior manager at IBM, is suing the global technology and innovation company for $1.1million dollars at the Australian Human Rights Commission after it failed to act on her complaints.
The once high performing sales consultant, who earned more than $159,000 per year and took home bonuses of several thousand dollars per month, suffered serious stress related illness and attempted suicide twice, according to Maurice Blackburn Special Counsel, Siobhan Keating, who is representing her case at the AHRC today.
Now in her 40s, the woman claims her senior manager, who no longer works for IBM, made sexual remarks about her, repeatedly rubbed himself against her as he walked by her work station, placed his hand on her leg and up her dress during an office function, and bullied her by being threatening and intimidating, yelling abuse, making unreasonable work demands and called her ‘stupid’.
Keating said: “Despite complaining to four managers, and our client’s obvious and visible distress which was affecting her performance, no action was taken for almost 18 months.
“The attitude of IBM in the face of these serious allegations, including repeatedly turning a ‘blind eye’, urging our client not to make a formal complaint, and not wanting to be told of details, exacerbated the damage to our client’s career and health and pushed our client to the edge.
The effect on the woman is said to be devastating, after losing her career and suffering from low self-esteem, loss of confidence, insomnia, anxiety and severe depression.
Keating said: “The claim in the Australian Human Rights Commission takes into account pain and suffering, the loss of future earnings as a high salaried professional, and medical expenses. Maurice Blackburn will seek to expedite the case and, if it is not resolved in the AHRC, Federal court proceedings will be promptly issued.”
Keating’s client, who wishes to remain anonymous, issued a statement in which she said: “I just feel worthless. I feel I have no future now. I can’t get a job. I feel I’m not worth anything anymore. I was put down for so long; told I was incapable. I put IBM on a pedestal, I was proud of my job but now – nothing.
“I was always called the social butterfly and was really outgoing. Since that all happened, I just became a hermit. I don’t go out now, I’ve just been home for so long – thinking – it’s just been really hard. As much as I try [to go out], I just can’t.
“He used to scream at me every day. I did nothing wrong, and no one did anything about it – nobody.”
Keating said: “No one has a right to bully or sexually harass a colleague at work. IBM’s continued poor handling of this matter has harmed our client in the most severe of ways.
“We allege that the conduct of the senior manager was unlawful and that IBM’s inaction was unlawful. These are serious issues that should have been dealt with immediately.