A colleague once told Kate: “I am going to follow you home, rip your clothes off and rape you."

“I am going to follow you home, rip your clothes off and rape you,” a colleague once told her.

Being a female in construction is a tough job.

Add being subjected to relentless sexual harassment – from touching, derogatory comments and pornographic material – and it is downright unbearable.

Kate Mathews knows this first-hand.

“I am going to follow you home, rip your clothes off and rape you,” a colleague once told her. It was this threat that caused the road construction worker to quit her job at a Melbourne civil engineering company.

Now, Ms Mathews has been awarded more than $1.3 million in damages by the Victorian Supreme Court for the barrage of harassment she endured at work between August 2008 and July 2010.

Her Winslow Constructors colleagues would pretend to perform sex acts on her and call her “useless”, a “bimbo” and “spastic”, News Limited reports.

Co-workers slapped her bottom, showed her pornography and asked her whether she would “do this” and subjected to sexist and frightening comments, like: “Anything that bleeds once a month should be shot.”

Ms Mathews said working at the company was “a filthy experience every day”, the ABC reports.

She said she expected a macho culture, but not to be bullied, assaulted and harassed.


“This was hardcore filth that I was getting,” she said.

“I tried to ignore them and just walk off, shaking my head.”

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The Supreme Court heard her complaints were ignored and laughed off by her superiors.

The company defended the claims, but admitted negligence on the fifth day of the hearing.

As a result of the sexual harassment, she suffers serious psychiatric illnesses, including bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression, and a jaw injury from constantly grinding her teeth.

The damages awarded to Ms Mathews for economic loss and pain and suffering totalled $1.36 million.

Maurice Blackburn lawyer Holly Pinnis said the case illustrated the potentially devastating consequences of sexual harassment in the workplace and put employers on notice to take action, News Limited reports.

“Kate was subject to behaviour no one should ever have to endure,” Ms Pinnis said.

“The fact that this happened at her workplace under her employer’s nose makes it all the more shocking.”

* Featured image via Nine News.

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