A SYDNEY Water employee who says she was "humiliated" after her photo was used on a poster under the words "Feel great - lubricate!" has launched a sexual discrimination claim.
Reem Yelda, 39, had worked at the utility for 12 years when she agreed to have her photo taken for use in the company's "Safe Spine" campaign last year.
Ms Yelda said she was not shown the final posters, which also contained the phrase "Kick off your SafeStarts by 'warming up the joints'", before they were placed in several Sydney Water depots, and only found out when her colleagues began contacting her.
"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 in a statement through her lawyers Slater and Gordon.
Ms Yelda said she went into shock. "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," she said.
"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."
The complaint against Sydney Water and subcontractor Vitality Works has been lodged with the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board, alleging sex discrimination and sexual harassment under sections 22B and 24 of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act 1977.
Slater and Gordon lawyer Aron Neilson said it was unbelievable that someone could look at the poster and not see its harmful sexual connotations. "Ms Yelda agreed to be part of this campaign because she wanted to help create a safe work environment," he 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 demoralising impact on employees. It should not be swept under the rug and it should never be tolerated in a modern work environment."
In a statement, a Sydney Water spokesman said the matter was currently before the Anti-Discrimination Board. "The Board has asked that the parties keep this matter confidential and we respect the Board's position on this," he said.
"While Sydney Water cannot disclose the specifics of this matter, Sydney Water's position is that the poster was not conduct of a sexual nature, but a work, health and safety campaign."
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