Rethinking Richardson: Sexual Harassment Damages in the #MeToo Era
Author(s): Kieran Pender
The 2014 judgment in Richardson v Oracle Corporation Australia Pty Ltd (‘Richardson’) had a seismic effect on workplace sexual harassment claims in Australia. Overnight, the ‘general range’ of damages awarded for non-economic loss in such cases increased from between $12 000 and $20 000 to $100 000 and above. The judgment has made Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) litigation considerably more attractive for plaintiffs and resulted in greater judicial recognition of the pain and suffering experienced by sexual harassment survivors. Richardson’s impact has also been felt beyond that immediate context, with the judgment cited in support of higher damages in discrimination cases and employment disputes. However, six years and over 40 judicial citations later, Richardson’s broader significance remains unclear—particularly following the emergence of the #MeToo movement. Drawing on a doctrinal analysis of subsequent case law and qualitative interviews with prominent Australian legal practitioners, this article evaluates Richardson’s legacy and considers how sexual harassment litigation may further evolve to reflect changing societal norms.
Co-authors: Madeleine Castles, Tom Hvala, Kieran Pender