Hotel to pay $300k for sex attack


A NATIONAL hotel chain has been ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to a worker sexually assaulted by a colleague.

After a lengthy legal battle, the company will have to fork out part of the $313,000 damages awarded to the young woman, aged 21 at the time of the “serious and shocking” assault.

The victim suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and depression after the December 2010 attack and was unable to return to work until 2015, a tribunal found.

She had been staying at a Brisbane hotel owned by her employer at its suggestion after moving to the city to take up a guest service agent position, sharing an apartment with the hotel’s night caretaker.

The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal found that the man — almost 70 years old at the time — crept into her room naked at 5am, touched her upper thigh and groin and attempted to take off her underpants.

She asked him to stop and to leave the room and broke down crying, prompting the older man to leave after saying: “I’ll let you get changed”.

He then returned and said: “This can be our little secret”, the tribunal heard.

None of the parties can be named due to a non-publication order.

‘SEVERE AND PROLONGED’ IMPACT

QCAT member Ann Fitzpatrick rejected the hotel chain’s argument that the victim could have chosen not to live in the apartment with the caretaker, finding that the assault took place in the course of both parties’ employment.

“I do not think it is unreasonable for such a person to feel that when her employer is transferring her to Brisbane and taking active steps to arrange her accommodation that she is required to live in that accommodation,” Ms Fitzpatrick said, accepting the victim’s evidence.

“She was assaulted in her bedroom and was awoken from sleep. She was plainly very vulnerable and she underwent a frightening experience,” she said, noting that the victim was “a very young woman” at the time of the attack.

Ms Fitzpatrick accepted medical evidence of the “severe and prolonged” psychological effects of the assault, including nightmares, psychotic illusions of seeing the assailant, agoraphobia, need for help with the activities of daily living, anxiety, fear, panic attacks, poor sleep, depression, loss of confidence and trust, suicidal thoughts, attempted suicide, self-harming and drug and alcohol abuse.

She rejected the hotel’s argument that the woman had pre-existing psychological and substance abuse problems that would warrant an adjustment of any compensation, along with its claim that the incident could not have been that damaging since she had recovered from an earlier, unrelated sexual assault.

Both the hotel and the assailant were jointly ordered to pay $313,000 as compensation for the assault.

dana.mccauley@news.com.au

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