Alleged Bechtel breast flasher denied defamation case

A Bechtel employee who was accused of showing off her “new found assets” on site has failed to reveal the identity of her complainant to sue for defamation.

On 2 October 2014 the Supreme Court of Western Australia dismissed an application to identify the party who had complained about the unnamed plaintiff’s conduct.

The plaintiff, an administration assistant (quality) for Bechtel at the Wheatstone project, was informed on 25 October 2013 of a complaint that she had exposed herself to other workers, unbuttoning her shirt and asking others to “look at these”.

The plaintiff denied the allegation and asked who had made the complaint, however Bechtel policy prevented management from divulging the identity of the complainant.

It was revealed that the complainant was a Thiess employee who had passed the complaint through to the site manager Bill Cooper.

The plaintiff was informed that such behaviour was a risk to her safety in such a male-dominated environment.

The plaintiff gave evidence in court that she had also faced allegations that she “engaged in sex with every man on the project” however this was denied by Bechtel employee Lisa Papandreas, who had been responsible for informing the plaintiff of the allegations.

Papandreas informed the court that she had told the plaintiff “I am very concerned if this has happened as you are working in a male dominated environment and this alleged behaviour puts you in an unsafe position… We will be moving you up to the main office [from the quarry office]for your own safety with immediate effect.”

The plaintiff was dismissed after the complaint for reportedly unrelated reasons.

Supreme Court coram Master Sanderson refused to overturn the confidentiality provisions of the Bechtel code of conduct and the harassment policy and would not order the company to disclose who made the complaint, as an order exposing the identity of the complainant could have the effect of discouraging future complaints.

Master Sanderson acknowledged the risk of encouraging “frivolous” or “salacious” complaints, but said that on the balance maintaining confidentiality was more important.

Sanderson said it appeared the complaint was only made within formal channels, and that there was no suggestion that the behaviour that formed the basis of the complaint was being discussed publically by the complainant outside the complaint process.

Sanderson said this influenced the decision to maintain confidentiality.

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