The case concerned a female employee working as a mechanic in a work place dominated by men. The woman had for some time complained to the employer alleging that she had been exposed for sexual harassment by two customers who had visited the work place on several occasions. One of the customers had on one occasion placed his hands on the lower back of her sweater, while she sat on her knees working, and on a later occasion pretended to touch her in the crotch. The second customer had for some time approached the woman and, among other things, tickled her in the waist on several occasions, and touched her bum, on top of her clothes. The woman had notified the employer about the behaviour from the customers, and after some time on sick leave she eventually resigned from the position. The woman sued the employer and the customers for breach on the prohibition against sexual harassment.
In the Court of Appeal, the employer was sentenced to pay compensation for violating the duty to prevent sexual harassment, in which they did not appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. Regarding the two customers, the Supreme Court held that both of the customers had subjected the female employee to sexual harassment, as their behaviour was “sexually accented”, “unwanted” and “troublesome” for the employee. The customers were sentenced to pay compensation for non-economic damages. The judgment is interesting in several ways. In relation to the requirement that the attention has to be unwanted, the Supreme Court put forward that if the attention is sufficiently serious, it is not required to express that the attention is unwanted.
In such cases it is sufficient that the person performing the action ought to understand that the action is undesirable based on objective criteria. In addition, the judgment emphasises that the conditions for sexual harassment must not be met for each individual incident in order for the incidents to constitute sexual harassment as a whole. Sexual harassment may occur over a longer period and several incidents may be seen in conjunction with each other and thus together constitute sexual harassment.
For more information on these articles or any other issues involving labour and employment matters in Norway, please contact Kari Andersen (Partner) of Storeng, Beck & Due Lund: SBDL at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.sbdl.no.