Four years after the case was first lodged, Kamilaroi woman Mandy Cant has a trial date for her case against BHP Billiton for the racial abuse she suffered as an employee of the mining giant.
The 47-years-old alleges she was racially abused on three occasions in 2016 when she was a material logistics officer at BHP’s Eastern Ridge mine site.
The first instance of the abuse allegedly occurred on July 21, when Cant noticed a racial slur written in dust on the floor of a store shed.
The abuse continued, Cant alleged, on August 17, when she saw the words “N….. B….” written in the dust on the back of her forklift.
Later, a post-it note with the words “Go Home N…..” was stuck to her laptop screen, she alleged.
In 2017, Cant described the impact the abuse had on her mental state.
“I wanted out of there. I was frightened, I was intimidated and it rocked my world. It really rocked my world,” she said.
She said the attacks left her too traumatised to work, and when she returned to Perth to meet BHP following the abuse, she lost her job at the mining company and was told an investigation had not identified the perpetrator.
Cant’s lawyers are claiming that as her employer, BHP owed her a duty of care.
They believe, if successful, the suit will show how far employers can be held accountable for actions of their employees in the workplace.
“Our client Mandy Cant was subjected to appalling, targeted racist abuse that robbed her of a job that she loved and left her with ongoing, psychological trauma — including depression and anxiety,” Principal Lawyer Gemma Taylor from Maurice Blackburn told The West Australian.
“We consider that BHP Billiton is vicariously liable for the racial abuse perpetrated by its employees, even if such conduct itself was not condoned or accepted by the employer.”
Taylor said they expect the case will set a precedent, making it harder for companies in the mining industry to “wash their hands clean of the unsavoury conduct of their employees”.
When asked about the case, Brandon Craig, BHP’s WA Iron Ore Asset President, called the alleged abuse “unacceptable”.
“Discrimination of any form is just simply unacceptable. We don’t stand for it and we don’t want people that behave that way inside our business, full stop,” he said.
The trial comes after BHP revealed in August to a Parliamentary Committee that the company had fired 48 workers over inappropriate sexual behaviour.
BHP said in the past two years, 73 reports had been made about inappropriate sexual behaviour at its mine sites, with reporting increasing as awareness of sexual assault grows.
By Sarah Smit