Verbal evidence ruled OK in Oracle sex discrimination case

Judge rules in favour of plaintiffs re oral evidence in Australian case

The Australian Federal Court has denied Oracle’s request to reduce the amount of verbal evidence submitted to a sexual discrimination case brought against it by a former employee. Former Oracle worker Rebecca Richardson is suing the company for sexual discrimination and one of the vendor’s employees, Randol Tucker, for sexual harassment. Richardson claims she was unfairly demoted after she flagged Tucker’s inappropriate behaviour to the company. She is seeking $A450,000 in damages. In a directions hearing, Oracle defence lawyer Elizabeth Raper highlighted to the Court that the case concerns what transpired between two employees as a sexual harassment matter and alleged repudiation and demotion by the company. Raper said she had understood that oral evidence was only required to address crucial conversations between Richardson and Tucker while the rest of the evidence can be submitted in written form to the Court. Presiding Judge, Justice Buchanan, corrected this assumption “I can’t at the moment see any reason that evidence should not be done orally and also without notice to me,” he said. “I can’t see why people shouldn’t get into the witness box and say what happened as opposed to discussing their version of events in private in a solicitor’s office. “I’d like to hear it directly.” Justice Buchanan said he wouldn't budge from this position unless it was highly inconvenient for the parties concerned. The hearing had begun on an unusual note with Justice Buchanan revealing that the Court had yet to receive a record of defence from the defendants. The matter is suspected to be an administrative error from either the defendants’ side or from the Federal Court offices. The plaintiff and defense lawyers have been squabbling over what evidence can be requested on discovery. The dispute is partially attributed to the defence claiming certain documents requested were irrelevant to the case. “This is an unpromising start in litigation to get bogged down in interlocutory skirmishes,” Justice Buchanan said. Both parties have committed to resolving the issue swiftly. A hearing to address the issue of the discovery of evidence is set for November 19.

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