The case of Mohd Ridzwan Abdul Razak v Asmah Hj Mohd Nor is the first case where the Malaysian High Court (HC) has awarded damages to a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace.
The Plaintiff and the Defendant were employees of Lembaga Tabung Haji (The Pilgrimage Fund Board). The Defendant reported directly to the Plaintiff. The Defendant lodged an internal complaint to the CEO claiming sexual harassment by the Plaintiff based on his allegedly repeated vulgar remarks, dirty jokes of a sexual nature, use of rude and uncouth words in emails and repeated offers to make the Defendant his second wife. Following the complaint, the Company initiated an inquiry but found that there was insufficient evidence to warrant disciplinary action against the Plaintiff. However, the Plaintiff was subsequently transferred to another Division of the Company.
The Plaintiff was aggrieved by the complaint and felt that it affected his reputation and standing as a Muslim and as a member of the senior management of the company. He sought disciplinary action against the Defendant for submitting a claim of sexual harassment based on no evidence. Despite his request, the company took no such disciplinary action. The Plaintiff responded by bringing a claim for defamation against the Defendant. That prompted the Defendant to respond by filing in her defence the sexual harassment allegation as a counterclaim against the Plaintiff.
The HC found against the Plaintiff and allowed the Defendant’s counterclaim for sexual harassment. That decision has subsequently been approved by the Federal Court which ordered general and aggravated damages for the tort of sexual harassment.
The Federal Court’s decision provides an avenue for victims of sexual harassment to seek a civil remedy in the Malaysian courts.