A prostitute has won a landmark sexual harassment case against a Wellington brothel owner.
In what is understood to be a world first, the Human Rights Review Tribunal awarded the young woman $25,000 in damages for emotional harm as a result of sexual harassment.
Aaron Montgomery, who no longer owns The Kensington Inn in Victoria St, was described as a bully who enjoyed controlling and humiliating women and tried to pressure workers into having sex with him.
Over a three-month period, the older man belittled and frightened the 22-year-old woman until she felt unsafe and on edge, became depressed and turned to alcohol, the tribunal’s decision said.
His overtures included telling her he could do what he liked with the girls who worked for him, and threatening to take her out of her comfort zone.
He told her weekends were his play time, that he took other workers out the back for sex and that most girls would do anything for him.
The tribunal ruled it was unacceptable for an employer to use sexual language in a way that was offensive to the employee in any workplace.
"Context is everything. Even in a brothel, language with a sexual dimension can be used inappropriately in suggestive, oppressive, or abusive circumstances," the findings said.
"Sex workers are as much entitled to protection from sexual harassment as those working in other occupations. The fact that a person is a sex worker is not a licence for sexual harassment - especially by the manager or employer at the brothel."