Sandy is the supervisor of a beachwear shop called Venice Beach Hotties (‘VBH’), located at Bondi Beach, Sydney. The corporate mission statement of VBH is ‘young, free and hot’.
Sandy has been undertaking a recruitment process to find new salespeople for VBH. She interviewed Betty and offered her a job on the spot. She assessed that Betty was young, a little insecure and also noted that this was her first job – however, she thought she had the ‘smarts’ to work the sales desk and because Betty was ‘young and hot’ she was the perfect hire.
The other applicant, Roxy, has years of experience working for the competitor of VBH. At interview, Sandy asked Roxy what her age was and whether she had kids; Roxy refused to answer. Sandy did not like Roxy’s response – she just wants staff who are honest and want to participate in staff activities at any time. Sandy has not decided if she will offer Roxy a job yet.
In their roles as sales-people, staff wear little clothing (except for swimwear products sold by Venice Beach Hotties) to show off their bodies. The staff mix regularly after-hours to promote a relaxed ‘vibe’ in the workplace.
In the lead-up to Christmas, a number of staff (during working hours and using the workplace computer) sent emails to each other planning a Christmas drinks party on the beach. Nothing was being paid for by the employer company, but only staff were invited.
Before the start of the party at the beach, there were a number of small groups of staff that went off to various bars for drinks to fill in time before the party started, including Betty. The weather was hot, most people were dehydrated, and the alcohol being consumed seemed to have a devastating effect on those who attended these events.
Eventually, all the staff members, including Sandy, made it to the beach (some more intoxicated than others) for the planned Christmas drinks party.
One of the male staff members, Mark, approached Betty and told her that she looked ‘hot’ and would ‘…like to wear that bikini as good as her’ and that ‘Betty probably looked good in her ‘birthday suit’ too if he had the chance to look’. Betty appeared confused; the other staff members who overheard the comment laughed and told the staff member to ‘keep on working’ his pick-up lines.
During the evening, a staff member of VBH, Stormy, asked Sandy if she had decided about whether to hire Roxy; an intoxicated Sandy replied that she “…did not need anyone with leather-looking skin ruining the vibe for customers”.
It is the morning after the Christmas drinks beach party. Sandy has a raging headache/hangover and has just taken two phone-calls; the first call was from Roxy – her cousin, Stormy, has let her know about the comments about Roxy’s ‘leather skin’ and has vowed to ‘bring Sandy down’.
The second call was from Betty; Betty told Sandy that into the early hours of the morning, Mark, had sent numerous texts to Betty’s personal phone, asking her to go on a date and that they could work on the same shifts to get to know one another better, ‘if you know what I mean (winking emoji)’. Betty was crying and said that she didn’t know what to do as she did not want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Sandy told her to feel flattered that Mark was interested in her and that it might be good to have some rosters together to create a ‘young free and hot vibe’. Betty says OK.
At 2pm, Betty’s father calls Sandy and mentions workplace harassment. Sandy tells him to ‘lighten up’ because it was at a party, but by 4pm she is getting a little concerned that she may have spoken to hastily; she calls your office and engages your services on behalf of VBH. You are a workplace lawyer.
Advise VBH as to possible legal risks and claims against VBH and its staff members and any recommendations you have for VBH in relation to the scenario content.
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