A sleazy surveyor who sent colleagues sexually explicit messages, including a photo of his penis, has lost his unfair dismissal.
The man argued the sexting had been mutual and that the women he targeted should have told him to stop if they didn’t like it.
But Fair Work Commission deputy president Melanie Binet didn’t agree:
“In this day and age young women should not have to tell their older superiors that they do not want to be sent salacious texts during or after working hours, nor have comments of a sexual nature made about them, or be directed toward them in their workplace.”
Sleazy surveyor sends text messages
Colin Reguero-Puente worked for the City of Rockingham as a building surveyor until his dismissal in December.
It followed an investigation into allegations of inappropriate conduct involving frequent unwelcome sexually explicit messages to young female colleagues.
He often sent the messages late at night and into the early hours of the morning.
In one case, sent a 23-year-old colleague an unsolicited photo of his erect penis and repeatedly asked her to send him a naked photo of herself.
“I’ve always wanted to play … you just didn’t know it … being your ‘boss’ and all.
“Don’t worry, I checked the EBA. Not on the clock so doesn’t matter,”
The woman wrote back, “Don’t get yourself in trouble, or me.”
Sleazy surveyor makes inappropriate comments
Another female colleague accused Reguero-Puente of making inappropriate comments in the workplace.
“I’ll let you go up the stairs first so I can watch your arse”
“You look hot. Did I just say that out loud”
“I would like to see you in those heels only”
“Your arse looks good, but I can’t say that as I have done my sexual harassment course so I can’t”
“Can you leave your underwear, a bra or something, in my car next time”
More inappropriate messages
In separate text messages, Reguero-Puente told a 31-year-old female colleague she had “the just been f**ked look”.
In another incident, he sent a 26-year-old colleague a late-night text saying, “I like your tongue being the centre piece.”
A minute later he wrote, “It’s alright. I checked the EBA. It’s off the clock so no harassment suits,” accompanied by a ‘kiss blowing’ emoji.
Reguero-Puente argued in his unfair dismissal claim that the messages were “welcomed and reciprocated”.
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What the Commission said
Deputy president Melanie Binet rejected Reguero-Puente’s argument that the women should have told him to stop if they didn’t like the interaction.
“Some of the women gave evidence that they did in fact do so and it made no difference.
“Others clearly tried to curtail conversations that Mr Reguero-Puente was trying to lead in an inappropriate direction. Others admittedly participated.
“All say that to the extent that they did respond, they felt they had little choice given Mr Reguero-Puente’s seniority and his behaviour in the workplace.”
Ms Binet said “with all due respect to Mr Reguero-Puente” it is “difficult to comprehend that he could have reasonably believed that all of these much younger women seriously welcomed his advances.
The deputy president said Reguero-Puente demonstrated a pattern of befriending much younger female subordinates and then progressively sending more frequent and increasingly less appropriate messages:
“Despite the opportunity to review his text message exchanges in preparation for the hearing, he still appears to fail to recognise the inappropriateness of the frequency, timing and content of his messages to multiple, less senior, female colleagues.
“There is nothing to suggest that Mr Reguero-Puente would not continue the same pattern of behaviour leading to further young women being subjected to his inappropriate overtures if he were to return to the workplace.”
Ms Binet subsequently rejected his unfair dismissal application, finding that the dismissal was not harsh, unjust or unreasonable.
Sexual harassment happens outside of work hours
Miles Heffernan, Litigation Director at Industrial Relations Claims, says the case is a classic example of sexual harassment.
“You cannot send sexually explicit messages to co-workers, especially junior co-workers, that are not welcome and are not solicited,” he said.
“And you most certainly can’t be sending pictures of your genitals.”
Mr Heffernan said workers often mistakenly believe that what they do outside of work hours doesn’t count as harassment.
“Sexual harassment can happen at any time, and it doesn’t have to be in the office or at the work site,” he said.
“It can happen at any hour of the day or night, and it can happen via text messages or on social media.
“And just because someone doesn’t explicitly tell you to stop, doesn’t mean they are happy or are inviting inappropriate conduct.
“The best rule of thumb is to never make comments or send messages that are sexual in nature to your work colleagues.”
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