Christchurch real estate agent guilty of sexual harassment, bullying

Christchurch real estate agent guilty of sexual harassment, bullying

Warning: This story contains language which may offend some people

A Christchurch real estate agent has been found guilty of sexually harassing a female co-worker after calling her "ugly", "fat" and saying she had a "pregnant belly".

The Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal ruled the unnamed agent was guilty of the charge disgraceful conduct after making "offensive personal or sexual comments, unwelcome sexual jokes and/or sexual or offensive gestures and behaviour" toward the woman between July and December 2014.

The decision, which was publicly released on Thursday, says the woman, labelled 'Ms A', started working at the small firm as the man's personal assistant and shared an office with him and an associate salesperson in July 2014.

In September that year, the woman first complained to the agency director Mr W, about the offensive comments the man had made. She later said she didn't want to work for him any longer.

The comments and behaviour included calling her "shit tits", "ugly", "fat" and that she had a "pregnant belly", a "saggy vagina" and "biscuit tits" and said she was a "slave".

He's also alleged to have said:

  • "Remember I used to f**k girls like you and leave them crying. Your vagina would probably reek out the whole office but I can still f**k you."
  • [After Ms A said to the defendant that she would "never go near you with your small dick syndrome"] "Go back to work slave".
  • "You might as well walk out now, no one will believe you, the only reason why you got the job is because of me."
  • "That's great [Ms A] because you are batshit ugly and I wouldn't f**k you with a 10-foot bargepole."

The man denied he'd made the first and third comments, but admitted they'd had an exchange where he said some of those things.

Through his lawyer, he claimed all of his comments were meant as "jokes" to "lighten the mood".

It was alleged the man told the woman to stand on a desk to write on a whiteboard where he looked up her skirt and commented on her underwear. He denied doing so, saying if he made such a comment it would've been a joke because he could not see them. The tribunal also said "on the balance of probabilities" the allegation couldn't be proved, but did say he did comment on her underwear.

The woman also claimed the man would constantly unzip and zip his fly in front of her. The man said he had a habit of undoing his fly to tuck his shirt in so likely did that while she was around; the tribunal said this was "inappropriate" in a shared office.

The man also commented on a social media post of Ms A's friend, saying he found the friend sexually attractive and "constantly discussed what he wanted to do with her".

In response to the woman's initial complaint, the man phoned her to apologise, which led her to decide to keep working for him.

Ms A made another complaint about a month later and the agency decided she'd no longer work for the man and moved her to another office. However, she and another sales associate later complained about further offensive behaviour.

The man resigned from the job in December 2014, while the woman left her job in January 2015.

A subsequent settlement agreement was reached between the parties following a Human Rights Commission report.

During the tribunal hearing in September last year, the man's lawyer said the woman "gave as good as she got" so it was reasonable to suggest he was "unaware of the impacts" his comments had on her.

It was also claimed such comments and behaviour was symptomatic of the agency's "office culture".

He also denied bullying Ms A, but said his behaviour "could be construed as bullying" "out of context".

A further telephone conference will set out the penalty the man will face.