Each had their say.
Elizabeth Broderick, a lawyer and the Sex Discrimination Commissioner was reported as saying that the ideal would be to have sexual harassment eliminated completely, but thinks that is wishful thinking.
John Niland, who sits on corporate and community boards including Macquarie Group and is deputy chancellor of Singapore Management University, commented that workplaces are very different with various levels of power plays between the sexes and the positions they hold. This is a reality.
Dr Michael Flood is a researcher at the University of Wollongong and an ambassador for the White Ribbon Campaign thought that men hold the key; that respecting women is fundamental to equality of relationships in the workplace.
Emily Maguire is a novelist and journalist, and her key comment was: "One reason behind the continued tolerance towards workplace sexual harassment is the widespread misapprehension that it's about romance and attraction."
These four are each 'spot on'. Sexual harassment does exist and will continue to exist, it has a whole lot to do with power in the work place, that men's respect for women is critical and moreover, there is a difference between a courteous 'compliment' (I like your hair today) and 'continued sexual harassment' (a course or suggestive or downright rude comment, or touching, that continues after the woman has asked it to stop).
For well over a decade there has been a genuine fear amongst many men that even if they wish to make a courteous 'compliment' to someone they liked and would like to get to know better, it may be defined as sexual harassment. However, for most polite men and women this would be unfounded.
Most women appreciate a compliment, and it is probably misunderstanding among gentlemanly men, who would never be accused by their female colleagues, but who have misinterpreted some news reports about actual sexual harassment cases, because they do not realise how course, brutish and inappropriate and offensive some different types of men can be.
Because of the fuzzy boundaries, and innuendo of some harassment suits, some men found it very difficult to know 'exactly how to go about' expressing their interest and many a comment has been made about 'having your lawyer along when asking a girl for a date'.
However, it is only this second type of man who attracts complaints of sexual harassment, involving continued unsavoury and overt sexual references, or even physical 'passes' or inappropriate touching. As the recent David Jones case illustrated, clearly, touching a bra strap is beyond the pale.
Because this case never went to Court, we will never know the actual 'his and hers' sides of the story. However, the publicity sends contradictory messages. The eventual settlement of around $850,000 compared with the original claim of $37 million ambit claim have made some people sceptical of the motives of the complainant, and many are now suggesting it may have done more harm than good.
There are three clear positives in my view that have come from media awareness:
There is now a clearer sense of what sexual harassment is and is not. For example, a woman in the work place is in conversation with a man who expresses an interest and is trying to ascertain her interest, there in an unequivocal understanding that this is not sexual harassment. If she declines interest and he puts 'power' pressure upon her, that becomes a step too far.
Another clearer understanding that has come from all this is that although sexual harassment is woeful, worrying and can cause much anxiety, it is not a $37 million claim. Gold diggers need not apply.
Moreover, the publicity has created a far greater awareness of both what sexual harassment is and the drama it can cause. It has also alerted the entire community of being watchful for possible negative and dangerous situations.
This process, although publicised by this case, actually began in the 1970s, in Human Resource departments, at a time when married women were permitted to become permanent Public Servants, and when the number of women graduates and women in higher positions started to increase.
The policies have been gradually moderated as they 'evolve' into workable principles, and much effort over the past 40 years has gone into making women and men aware that there 'ARE' actual definitions and policies that should be followed.
So a fourth positive that has come from this high profile case is that women can object to objectionable behaviour, and reasonable (but not excessive) compensation is seen by the community to be acceptable. But of course money can never really 'compensate' for loss of self-confidence or damage to the psyche.
In conclusion, this case has shown that it is possible for women (or men) to bring a suit if they feel harassed in any way – particularly if the harassment goes against the guidelines set out at their own workplace. Those in power do not have the inalienable right to wield that power where it is uncomfortable for those in their employ.
This case did not go to Court because the parties decided to settle – in doing that, we can presume that those at David Jones did not think they would win the case, and we can draw our own conclusions. If it had gone to Court, we would have heard both sides of the story under Oath, and the legal system would have decided whether or not it was a legitimate complaint, and what the compensation or payments would have been.
However, it seems that the community is not prepared to accept unreasonably outrageous 'ambit' claims, whether or not the suit is legitimate. In the end, it has proved that the legal system in our country is robust.
This also raises a different question for committed Christians, men and women. Their Christian stance could make them vulnerable in this arena with any good natured comment that could so easily be turned against them. The ramifications of such a 'politically engineered' claim can be devastating.