The Human Rights Tribunal - an alternative path for resolving employment issues

The recent decision of BGH v Kumar [2024] NZHRRT 2 serves as a useful reminder that the Human Rights Review Tribunal (‘the Tribunal’) is a potential avenue for resolution of certain employment issues.


BGH, the only female employee at Viti Panel and Paint Limited, started work at Viti part time at the end of 2014 and started working full time in August 2016. She was subjected to daily harassment by Mr Kumar, the second in command, including comments on her appearance and marital status, encroaching on her personal space and unwanted touching, sending inappropriate text messages, being sent a video of a women’s bare buttocks, and singing love songs in her presence.

In November 2016, two separate incidents occurred: one in which Mr Kumar touched BGH on the shoulder, waist, upper thigh and buttock while she was on the phone; and one in which Mr Kumar peeped at BGH through a hole in a wall while she was in a toilet. Following the peeping incident, BGH left work early and did not return to work again.

Claim in the Human Rights Tribunal

BGH brought a claim in the Human Rights Tribunal who held that the behaviour BGH was subjected to while at work was of a sexual nature, was unwelcome and offensive, and was repeated and of such a significant nature that it had a detrimental effect on BGH in respect of her employment.

Award to victim

In the end, the Tribunal ordered the following remedies to BGH:

  • A declaration that Mr Kumar had breached the Human Rights Act by sexually harassing BGH;
  • $2,720.00 for the loss of four weeks’ income; and
  • $29,000.00 for the humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to her feelings that BGH suffered.

What types of claims will the Tribunal hear?

As well as sexual harassment claims, the Tribunal will also hear employment claims relating to:

  • breach of privacy;
  • discrimination on various grounds including gender, age and disability;
  • racial harassment or racial disharmony;
  • adverse treatment of an employee affected by family violence; and
  • victimisation of a whistle-blower.

The Tribunal may decline to take action on a claim brought to them later than 12 months from when the person making the claim had knowledge of the incident. For a successful claim, the Tribunal can award up to $350,000.00.

Importantly an employment claim cannot be heard by both the Human Rights Tribunal and the Employment Relations Authority. You must pick one or the other.

The above decision is an important reminder that the Tribunal is one possible way to resolve employment issues – you don’t have to just go to the Employment Relations Authority.

If you would like help with an employment matter, please contact our team.