PM under fire for “tormenting” woman in workplace

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Prime Minister John Key has come under fire after an anonymous blog written by an employee of an Auckland café has alleged that he treated her disrespectfully and inappropriately.

The waitress claimed in her blog that Key repeatedly tugged on her hair on several different occasions, which she says made her feel bullied and harassed.

She referred to Key’s behaviour as that of a “schoolyard bully”, claiming that when she eventually told him to stop he apologised by giving her two bottles of wine.

“There's always lots of horsing around and sort of practical jokes and that's all there really was to it,” Key told One News; but he conceded that he had behaved inappropriately.

“It's a very warm, friendly relationship. In that context you'd say yes, but if you look at it now, no,” he said.

“In the beginning, the first time he pulled on my hair, I remember thinking to myself he's probably just trying to be playful and jolly, seeing as the general consensus of most who meet him is ‘he’s such a nice guy’,” the employee wrote on The Daily Blog.

“The next time he came up behind me and pulled my hair I was annoyed. Great, I thought, this wasn't just a one-off,” she continued. “Despite my obvious annoyance I didn't comment on his behaviour. It then happened yet again when he next visited the cafe and again I didn't respond verbally, but everything about my body language screamed I DON’T LIKE THAT.”

“As he made his way out the door I said after him ‘Please STOP or I will actually hit you soon!’ He'd made it clear that he just didn't care,” she wrote. 

“Everybody knew that I didn't like it, I really didn't like it,” she added. “I felt powerless and tormented and I stepped out the back and I cried frustrated tears.”

It was after this that Key returned to the woman’s place of work to apologise and give her the wine, which she said she accepted in order to retain evidence of his apology.

Glen D’Cruz, solicitor at Corban Revell Lawyers, told HRM that it is unlikely that the employer has any liability, despite their duty of care to ensure that its employees do not get harassed.

“Generally harassment or bullying under the Employment Relations Act is meant to protect an employee who has been subjected to such treatment by another employee,” D’Cruz said. “Although the employer is obligated to ensure that its staff doesn’t get harassed, which means that this person may have a claim under Health and Safety legislation, applying it to these facts, I would say it’d be a pretty farfetched claim.”
  • Helena on 22/04/2015 4:13:54 p.m.

    What is this, NW magazine? Come on.

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