New Zealand Sex Worker Wins Six-figure Settlement in Sexual Harassment Payout

A sex worker will receive a six-figure payout as part of a settlement in sexual harassment proceedings against a business owner.

The terms of the settlement include payment of a six-figure sum to the woman concerned.

The sum is part of a settlement to compensate the woman for “emotional harm and lost earnings”, said the human rights body that represented her on Monday.

The case served as a reminder that all workers have the right to freedom from sexual harassment at work, it added.

All other details, including the identities of those involved, are confidential.

The director of human rights proceedings, Michael Timmins, said the settlement was an important reminder to businesses that 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.”

In an earlier decision by the tribunal, sex workers were found to be protected by the Human Rights Act.

Although they work in an environment where there will be some sexual language and behaviour, there is a difference between that with a legitimate work purpose and unwelcome or offensive language and behaviour, it found.

“Context is everything, even in a brothel, language with a sexual dimension can be used inappropriately in suggestive, oppressive or abusive circumstances,” the tribunal said.

“It follows that it is not possible to ask whether a ‘reasonable sex worker’ would find the behaviour unwelcome or offensive.

“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.”

“It’s great to see a settlement of this type has been awarded in the context of sex work to a sex worker,” Dame Catherine Healy, national coordinator of the New Zealand Sex Workers Collective, told the BBC.

“It takes courage to stand up in the workplace, any workplace,” she added, saying it was a “wake-up call” for businesses.

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