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Sexual discrimination claim filed against Sydney Water

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After ‘Feel great – lubricate’ workplace safety poster

Published on

A sexual discrimination claim has been filed against Sydney Water by an employee whose image was used on a workplace safety poster under the slogan, 'Feel great – lubricate!'.

Reem Yelda, 39, had worked for Sydney Water for 12 years when she agreed to have her photo taken for use in the company's 'Safe Spine' campaign in 2016.

The final poster was not shown to Ms Yelda before they were placed in several Sydney Water Depots and she was humiliated when her colleagues began contacting her.

The phrase "Kick off your SafeStarts by 'warming up the joints'" was also printed on the posters beneath her photo.

Ms Yelda said she went into shock when she first heard about the posters.

"I was absolutely humiliated – it is a very male dominated workplace and I felt like I had been turned into the punchline of a dirty joke," Ms Yelda said.

"I felt betrayed after agreeing to be part of a serious and informative spine safety campaign, but instead I was made the laughing stock of my workplace.

"I worked for Sydney Water for 12 years and I strived to be respected and taken seriously in the workplace, but overnight I became 'that woman from the poster', a smutty joke.

"Sexual discrimination like this happens in workplaces every day and enough is enough.

"Nobody deserves to be made into a laughing stock and sexualised in their workplace. There are a thousand slogans they could have used that would not have humiliated me.

"I wouldn't wish the shame, humiliation and anxiety I have experienced on anyone else, so I hope that speaking out will go some way towards stopping it from happening in the future."

Ms Yelda has lodged a complaint with the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board, alleging sex discrimination and sexual harassment against Sydney Water and sub-contractor Vitality Works as per sections 22B and 24 of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW).

Ms Yelda's lawyer, Aron Neilson from Slater and Gordon said it is unbelievable that someone could look at this poster and fail to see its harmful sexual connotations.

"Ms Yelda agreed to be part of this campaign because she wanted to help create a safe work environment," Mr Neilson said.

"She trusted this would be respectfully handled, but instead, she became the laughing stock of her workplace.

"By continuing to deny the clear sexual implications of the poster, Sydney Water and Vitality Works are adding insult to injury and creating a culture that discourages workers from speaking out.

"Sexual harassment has a demoralizing impact on employees. It should not be swept under the rug and it should never be tolerated in a modern work environment."

Media Contact: Amelia Birnie 0428 994 937