Record sexual harassment case upheld

A woman awarded an Australian record damages claim for work-related sexual harassment says she can finally start to move on after the payment was upheld.

Chartered accountant Jemma Ewin was awarded $476,163 in December 2013 after a judge found co-worker Claudio Vergara had unwanted sex with her after work drinks in Melbourne in 2009.

Mr Vergara appealed the finding on a number of grounds but the Federal Court dismissed the appeal yesterday.

Speaking outside court, Ms Ewin said she was very pleased.

"It's vindicated a very long five year fight for justice and confirms Justice Bromberg's decision handed down in December 2013," she told reporters.

"I was subjected to the most disgusting sexual harassment by a fellow employee."

Ms Ewin said she had not worked since November 2010, suffered ill-heath and had lost her home.

Ms Ewin and Mr Vergara were working at the same office in Melbourne in May 2009.

After hearing the evidence in court last year, Justice Mordecai Bromberg found Mr Vergara engaged in unwanted sexual conduct with Ms Ewin at the office, after they went to a bar with colleagues.

Ms Ewin said she had no memory of the incident because she was heavily intoxicated.

The judge also found Mr Vergara had made sexual remarks to Ms Ewin in days leading up to the incident.

Mr Vergara, who was present for the appeal judgment, has never been charged with any sexual offence in relation to Ms Ewin though the matter was reported to police.

He will have to pay Ms Ewin's costs for the appeal on top of $210,563 he has been ordered to pay towards the damages claim.

Mr Vergara's legal representative said it would be financially crippling for him and his family, and asked for a stay on some related proceedings.

Ms Ewin also claimed outside court that Victoria Police mishandled the associated criminal matter and called for an independent investigation.

"Unless you are prepared to sacrifice everything for justice you are pushed aside and told just forget about it, get on with your life," she said.

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