Sexually harrassed Queenstown driver miscarried

The former Queenstown female truck driver awarded more than $63,000 for being sexually harassed, discriminated against because of her gender and unjustifiably dismissed from her job suspects she miscarried as a result of being told to ''manhandle'' an 800kg load at work.

The Employment Relations Authority ordered that Rachael Lee Harrington receive $38,243 as recompense for wages lost as a result of the dismissal and $25,000 as compensation for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings from her former employer, Cromwell-based Thunderbird One Ltd.

Ms Harrington was ''severely bleeding and miscarrying after lifting all the heavy pallets, so it was really super traumatic for her,'' counsel Angeline Boniface, of Christchurch, told the Otago Daily Times yesterday.

''The worst thing about this entire situation is that here she is bleeding profusely, her father asked for an ambulance to come on site and Mr [Justin] Marshall said, 'If you get an ambulance, you'll be up for disciplinary action,'' Mrs Boniface said.

''Meanwhile she's bleeding, she wants to get into the building and other staff members have locked her out and laughing at her. This is awful, just shocking.''

The determination of Ms Harrington's claim to the authority in Christchurch, dated April 24, said the key incident occurred early on December 17, 2008.

Ms Harrington started suffering further pain, which she attributed to injuries suffered when trying to move the load on December 15.

The pain increased and was accompanied by visible signs of incapacity and distress. She said although she thought it appropriate to seek medical assistance, she initially chose not to as she felt obligated to continue working.

''By the time she reached the Cromwell depot her pain was acute,'' the determination said.

''She sought assistance from her manager and this led to derision and laughter from other employees.

''She claims some went so far as to block her access to first aid and she was then refused help in obtaining medical assistance.

''Ms Harrington says that went so far as to include Mr Marshall advising she would not be permitted to call an ambulance and to do so would result in disciplinary action.

''Ms Harrington got her father to take her to a doctor, who advised she should urgently seek hospital assistance in Queenstown. Ms Harrington says she advised Mr Marshall of that and asked the company assist with transport.

''Ms Harrington claims Mr Marshall refused and suggested she seek assistance from a competing firm, approximately a kilometre down the road.

''Ultimately, Ms Harrington's father took her to hospital, where she remained for a couple of days.''

The final straw which caused her to resign came on December 29 when Ms Harrington returned to work and assisted a colleague, on the instruction of the Cromwell branch manager.

Another employee intervened and criticised her for doing so before approaching the manager and attempting to have the instruction altered, the determination said.

Ms Harrington said she asked her colleague to desist and he responded with an ''inappropriate and hurtful comment'' about her recent ''illness''.

''We're pleased with the outcome. It has been a long battle, nearly four years,'' Mrs Boniface said.

''For her, it's not been about the money. For her, it's been about trying to send a message to employers in male dominated fields that this behaviour is unacceptable.

''She wants to prevent this type of thing happening in the future to other women.''

• Justin Marshall, managing director of Thunderbird One Ltd and Picture Vehicles Ltd, is not the former All Black and broadcaster Justin Marshall.




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