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Settlement On Sexual Harassment Proceedings

Director for Human Rights Proceedings, Michael Timmins:

“The Director of Human Rights Proceedings is pleased to announce that a settlement has been reached between a business owner and a sex worker who filed sexual harassment proceedings in the Human Rights Review Tribunal. The worker was represented by the Office of Human Rights Proceedings.

The terms of the settlement include payment of a six-figure sum to the woman concerned to compensate her for both emotional harm and lost earnings. The settlement, including the identities of those involved, is otherwise confidential.

The settlement of this matter serves as an important reminder to businesses across the country that under the Human Rights Act 1993 all workers, regardless of the type of work they do, have the right to freedom from sexual harassment in the workplace. We encourage all business owners and employers to ensure that they understand and respect those rights.”


This settlement is consistent with the earlier decision of the Human Rights Review Tribunal in DML v Montgomery https://www.justice.govt.nz/assets/Documents/Decisions/2014-NZHRRT-6-DML-v-Montgomery-and-MT-Enterprises-Ltd.pdf

There the key finding was that Sex workers are protected by s 62 of the Human Rights Act 1993 (sexual harassment). Sex workers work in an environment where there will be some sexual language/behaviour. However, there is a difference between sexual language/behaviour with a legitimate work purpose, and sexual language/behaviour that is unwelcome or offensive to the individual, and a breach of section 62 of the Human Rights Act.

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Key quotes from that judgment:

[106] …. context is everything. Even in a brothel language with a sexual dimension can be used inappropriately in suggestive, oppressive, or abusive circumstances.

[111] It follows that it is not possible to ask whether a “reasonable sex worker” would find the behaviour unwelcome or offensive. If the Tribunal accepts the plaintiff’s evidence that she did indeed find Mr Montgomery’s language unwelcome or offensive, that is sufficient. If in a brothel language or behaviour of a sexual nature could never be considered unwelcome or offensive sex workers would be denied the protection of the Human Rights Act.

[146] …The special vulnerability of sex workers to exploitation and abuse was specifically recognised by the Prostitution Reform Act 2003 which not only decriminalised prostitution but also had the purpose of creating a framework to safeguard the human rights of sex workers and to promote their welfare and occupational health and safety…

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