A manager of a local clothing store has been fined after verbal sexual harassment of a young employee escalated into an unwanted touch on her bottom.
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reason, told the Wollongong Local Court during a hearing on Monday that Clint Daniel Corcoran was "over the line" when he used the back of his fingers to touch her buttocks and said "nice shorts" at the clothing store on December 26 last year.
The inappropriate workplace incident occurred when they worked at Beach Street Surf Scene in Shellharbour on December 26 last year.
The 46-year-old was told he breached the trust of a "vulnerable young woman" who feared she would lose the casual job she enjoyed, was good at and paid well if she spoke up about previously inappropriate comments.
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Magistrate Gabrielle Fleming labelled Corcoran's actions as "truly appalling" and "entirely inappropriate and criminal", adding his actions were no way to treat a valued employee.
She said the woman's evidence in court was credible, adding her complaint was strengthened as she quit the next day, and reported the assault to police the day after.
"I found her to be an impressive witness," Magistrate Fleming said. "She was clear and consistent ... and was not undermined in cross examination. She was very detailed and didn't seek to exaggerate."
Magistrate Fleming said the act was sexual in nature due to the part of the woman's body that was touched and that she was bent over in a "vulnerable position".
"She wasn't touched on the leg or hip...she was touched on the buttock and it was clearly sexual," she said. "The comment relates to her appearance."
Magistrate Fleming also noted there was a gender and age disparity and Corcoran was the woman's employer and therefore in a position of power and trust.
When giving evidence on the stand, the woman said when she was bent over stocking sunglasses she felt a touch on the right side of her buttocks and the comment "nice shorts".
She told the court she recognised the voice as her manager.
The woman went on to tell the court there had been four other incidents that had made her feel "uncomfortable" throughout her time working at the store.
The woman said about two months after she started the job, the assistant manager of 25 years spoke about taking his clothes off when he got home.
On another occasion he spoke about his own nipples before transferring the conversation to her nipples.
The woman described an incident where she was putting on lip balm and Corcoran said to her she must need the ointment "from all the kissing".
She also described how on a few occasions Corcoran referred to her car as a "shaggin' wagon".
Under cross examination from defence barrister Robert Steward the woman denied the claims she made up the comments and lied about the location of the touch.
When asked why she did not tell other managers about the comments she explained the other employers were close friends of Corcoran and "before it was only sexual harassment verbally ... this time because it was physical it was over the line".
The court heard Corcoran was spoken to by police and admitted to touching the woman and saying "nice shorts", but claimed the tap was not on her buttocks but rather her leg or hip. He added it was a "spur of the moment" decision and a "friendly gesture".
In court he said the comment, "nice shorts" was about the new clothing the woman had on and denied all other comments the woman described.
"When you did the tapping and made the comment, "nice shorts", did you have any intention other than to compliment her on shorts," Mr Steward said.
"No definitely not," Corcoran replied.
Under cross examination from police prosecutor Ben Bragger, Corcoran said he would "every now and then" comment on what female staff members would wear but said he would "not usually" touch them.
When asked why Corcoran felt it necessary to touch the woman he said "I didn't have any feeling, it was a spur of the moment thing when I walked past".
Sgt Bragger also went on to suggest Corcoran had previously "gotten away" with making verbal comments to the woman and felt comfortable to touch her without her consent. However Corcoran denied the suggestion.
Magistrate Fleming noted Corcoran had a "very limited record" before she fined him $2000 and placed him on community corrections order for 12 months where he must be of good behaviour.
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