Pizza worker gets $57k payout after colleague stared at breasts

The court found that "Della Rosa gave no evidence in the hearing of even the most basic workplace training in these matters".
The court found that "Della Rosa gave no evidence in the hearing of even the most basic workplace training in these matters". Photo credit: Getty Images

A Melbourne woman has been awarded $NZ57,000 after she was sexually harassed by a male colleague who stared at her breasts and her complaints about him were dismissed. 

The claim was laid against Della Rosa Fresh Foods, a pizza and toppings manufacturer. Its products are stocked at major supermarkets such as IGA, Coles and Woolworths. 

Sudesh Kumari was working there in 2017 when she said a male coworker leered at her breasts while having a conversation with her.

Kumari said the interaction made her feel "uncomfortable, objectified and degraded". 

When she confronted the employee about it, she said he reacted angrily, leaving the woman frightened and upset.  

According to hearing documents, Kumari's immediate manager, Mr Gonzales, responded to her complaints by saying "you are Indian, I don't like Indians, they always cause problems".

Before the ordeal, Kumari said she felt comfortable and like she was part of the team but the racist comments changed all this. 

After making the complaint, Kumari was forced to take annual leave while the investigation into her claims was conducted, despite earlier intentions to save her holidays for visiting family in India.

The investigation was conducted by Mr Gonzales and Emilio de Lorso, the director of Della Rosa, but the court found it was inadequately executed because of Kumari's sex.

Kumari told the court she was the only employee required to go to de Lorso's office over the course of the investigation and the person who stared at her breasts was not required to attend his office. 

She said she felt disbelieved by de Lorso. 

Della Rosa's investigation subsequently characterised the staring as a 'misunderstanding' that the court found to be entirely misconceived. 

The court went on to say "Della Rosa gave no evidence in the hearing of even the most basic workplace training in these matters having been conducted for employees and managers". 

After the investigation, Kumari was transferred from the company's bakery worksite to a new location arranging pizza toppings even though she expressed this was against her wishes.

Additionally, she was not notified of the change in workplace until 5.30am on the day she was supposed to return to work. 

Kumari initially claimed $NZ67,255 for non-economic loss, and $NZ131,280.06 for economic loss, from Della Rosa. 

Della Rosa submitted that no more than $NZ13,600 should be awarded for non-economic loss, and that no award should be made in relation to the claim for economic loss.

"The initial contravention by Ms Kumari's fellow employee could have been simply and effectively ameliorated but was actually exacerbated by the conduct of Della Rosa's management," The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal's Louise Johnson found.

While awarding Kumari's compensation on Monday, Johnson found that she had been subject to sexual harassment, victimisation and unfavourable treatment due to race.

Johnson went on to award Kumari $NZ41,239 in compensation for non-economic loss and $NZ16,540 for economic loss.