Construction company Mota-Engil has been ordered to pay K30 million, being aggravated damages to a woman only identified as TK, who alleged that she was sexually harassed by the then company’s senior employee in the line of duty.
The woman, who was working for the company as timekeeper for the Thyolo- Thekerani-Muona-Makhanga Road Project, told the court that she was sexually harassed multiple times by the then company’s general foreman Joachim Carhavario.
In her examination-in-chief, led by lawyer Kuleza Phokoso, TK told the court that Carhavario proposed to be in a relationship with her but she refused.
She then said he started using his authority to sexually abuse and harass her.
The judgement, a copy of which is in our possession, says TK told the court that she complained to the company through several of its officers in the chain of command about Carhavario’s abuse but nothing happened and the company continued to let Carhavario drive her to construction sites.
“She further testifies that on 23rd November 2016, he [Carhavario] asked her to go with him on a routine inspection of projects and he drove towards Luchenza. Just after Thyolo Secondary School, he forcibly pulled up her skirt forcibly exposed her thigh and started sexually caressing her. She reported the sexual harassment and the endangerment of her safety to their supervisor Mr Chise but the defendant continued assigning Carhavario to work with her.
“Barely a week later, on 28th November 2016, Carhavario ordered her to go with him to Bolopoti, which was a construction site. Along the way, Carhavario undressed himself to his knees and ordered her to caress his penis which she refused. He then locked the car and parked it and started attempting to forcibly undress and kiss her. He took out a six-gear knife and tried to rip the jean trousers that she was putting on. She fought back until he stopped for fear of attracting attention to themselves,” he said.
The court held that there is a statutory duty and common law obligation of the employer to maintain a safe work environment.
“Section 13 of the Occupational Safety Health and Welfare Act provides that it shall be the duty of every employer to ensure the safety, health and welfare of all his employees. This employer’s duty is further expounded by the common law under the employer’s duty to provide safe systems of work, safe places of work and safe practices of work.
“Taking all factors into consideration, this court awards the claimant K30,000,000 as aggravated damages for the defendant’s negligence and breach of duty as an employer. The claimant is further awarded costs for the assessment of damages proceedings to be taxed if not agreed by the parties,” the judgement reads.