A 21-year-old female employee was staying in a unit owned by the chain when she woke to find a much older, naked man in her bedroom at around 5am. The man was the “night caretaker of the hotel” and also occupied the unit, in a separate bedroom.
“He touched her body including her upper thigh and groin and attempted to remove her underpants,” according to a recently published Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal decision.
The incident occurred December 1, 2010 in a Brisbane unit provided by their employer. A non-publication order is in place to prevent the names of any party involved from being shared.
The woman was not able to return to work until 2015, according to the tribunal decision, and she suffered from PTSD and depressive symptoms after the assault.
QCAT member Ann Fitzpatrick said in the published decision that she accepted the victim’s account, which also recalled the man saying words to the effect “this can be our little secret”.
While the hotel chain accepted that sexual harassment took place, it argued that it was “not vicariously liable” for the man’s conduct.
According to the decision, the hotel chain CEO had suggested to the female employee that she “reside free of charge” in the company-owned two-bedroomed unit occupied by the man, “to assist her in moving to Brisbane to take up the job”. Member Fitzpatrick ultimately found that “but for her employment” the victim “would not have been in” the unit “at the time the sexual assault took place”.
She also stated “it matters not if the sexual assault occurred in his private residence or anywhere else in the hotel”, noting “the critical issue is that it occurred in the course of his work”.
The tribunal decision ordered the hotel chain and the woman’s attacker to pay more than $310,000.