New Zealand sex worker wins six-figure sexual harassment payout

Payout intended to compensate worker for emotional harm and lost earnings, says human rights commission

An interior view of an empty room at an eros center in the closed red-light district in Stuttgart, Germany
New Zealand’s human rights review tribunal ruled that sex workers were protected from sexual harassment. Photograph: Ronald Wittek/EPA

A New Zealand sex worker has won a six-figure payout as part of a settlement after filing a sexual harassment complaint against a business owner, the country’s human rights commission has said.

The settlement was an important reminder that all workers, regardless of the type of work they did, have the right to freedom from sexual harassment in the workplace, said Michael Timmins, director of the office of human rights proceedings.

“We encourage all business owners and employers to ensure that they understand and respect those rights,” he said, according to news website Stuff.

The commission said the settlement was intended to compensate the woman, who was represented by Timmins’ office, for emotional harm and lost earnings. Her identity, and all other details in the case, remained confidential.

The woman’s case was filed with the human rights review tribunal which had earlier ruled that sex workers were protected against sexual harassment under the Human Rights Act.

“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 act.”