PUTRAJAYA: Victims of sexual harassment at the workplace can now file a civil suit and claim damages against the perpetrators, following a landmark Federal Court ruling.
The decision was delivered by the Federal Court’s five-man panel chaired by Chief Judge of Malaya Justice Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin, in a suit filed by Tabung Haji’s former risk management division general manager Mohd Ridzwan Abdul Razak against ex-colleague Asmah Mohd Nor.
Mohd Ridzwan was challenging a High Court finding that he had harassed Asmah and its award of RM120,000 in damages over the resulting emotional trauma.
He had initiated the defamation suit, claiming her sexual harassment complaint had caused his work contract not to be renewed. Asmah counter-sued him for sexual harassment.
Justice Suriyadi Halim Omar, who read out the judgment, said it was evident that there had been no reported cases pertaining to the Employment Act 1955 in Malaysia where the individual victim had claimed legal remedies from an alleged perpetrator for sexual harassment.
“Sexual harassment is a very serious misconduct and in whatever form it takes, cannot be tolerated by anyone.
“It lowers the dignity and respect of the person who is harassed, let alone affect his or her mental and emotional well-being,” Justice Suriyadi said when dismissing Mohd Ridzwan’s appeal.
In a unanimous decision yesterday, he ruled that perpetrators who went unpunished would continue intimidating, humiliating and traumatising the victims, thus resulting in an unhealthy working environment.
“We dismiss the appellant’s appeal with a cost of RM20,000,” Justice Suriyadi said.
Also on the panel were Justices Ahmad Maarop, Ramly Ali and Balia Yusof Wahi.
On Sept 24, 2012, the Kuala Lumpur High Court dismissed Ridzwan’s suit and allowed Asmah’s counter-suit.
Justice Amelia Tee Hong Geok Abdullah found that Asmah had been harassed by her boss for a sustained seven to eight months.
Incidents included Ridzwan’s vulgar language and jokes, invitations to be his second wife, advice to pray for erotic dreams and how to measure a man’s sexual potency using a coconut.
On Feb 6, 2013, the Court of Appeal upheld the decision.