'Feel great – lubricate': Former Sydney Water employee awarded $200,000 in damages over poster

Author
Finn McHugh, news.com.au,
Publish Date
Sat, 1 May 2021, 4:08PM
Reem Yelda has been awarded $200,000 in damages. (Photo / Supplied)
Reem Yelda has been awarded $200,000 in damages. (Photo / Supplied)

'Feel great – lubricate': Former Sydney Water employee awarded $200,000 in damages over poster

Author
Finn McHugh, news.com.au,
Publish Date
Sat, 1 May 2021, 4:08PM

A woman who felt like a "sex object" after being featured in a safety poster with the words "Feel great – lubricate!" has been awarded $200,000 in damages.

Reem Yelda filed a sexual harassment suit over her portrayal in the poster, displayed at Sydney Water facilities between February and April 2016.

On the spine safety poster, Yelda, an employee at Sydney Water, was pictured stretching beneath large lettering urging the reader to "Feel great – lubricate!"

She told the court reactions from colleagues in the male-dominated industry, including emails mocking the poster, left her feeling like a "sex object" and left her "confidence shattered".

The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) heard Yelda felt "her reputation in the male-dominated workplace had been tarnished, and her co-workers would look at her differently" as a result of the posters.

It accepted Yelda "nearly collapsed … felt exposed, humiliated and ashamed" after seeing the image, which she initially thought was doctored when it was sent to her via email by a male colleague.

Another male colleague encouraged her to make a complaint, telling the court his first impression of the image was a woman pointing to the word "lubricate".

She quit soon after lodging her complaint, and the court accepted Yelda "could not face everyone after the poster was displayed" despite being a highly-regarded worker.

It found her inability to return was "fundamentally" because of the posters. She has not been employed since quitting.

Having found her a "credible, reliable and honest" witness, the tribunal ruled Yelda had suffered psychological harm and a loss of $318,280.08.

The court was only able to award $100,000 against each respondent: Sydney Water and Vitality Works, which produced the poster.

Both argued around $10,000 was reasonable.

Sydney Water accepted Yelda had been embarrassed by the posters, but argued she had circulated them widely in national media and had initially downplayed the poster's impact on her.