Alicia Gali was sentenced to 12 months in a UAE prison after laying a complaint with police about her three co-workers in June 2008.
She was jailed for adultery and served eight months before being pardoned in March 2009 and returning to Australia. In the UAE it is illegal to have sex outside of marriage.
At a hearing in Brisbane Supreme Court on Friday, Maurice Blackburn lawyers were granted leave to sue the hotel, alleging Ms Gali’s employer breached its workplace obligations by failing to have systems in place to protect their workers against assault.
The law firm is taking legal action in Australia as Alicia took out an employment contract with the company while she was in Queensland.
“Alicia’s employer has let her down in the most terrible, terrible of ways,” Maurice Blackburn associate Melissa Payne said.
“A company like this should know better.”
“There are many things they could have done and should have done to protect Alicia.
“These include having segregated secure quarters for its female employees and providing adequate induction and training as to the local laws and customs for its foreign employees.
According to Ms Payne, Ms Gali has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, claustrophobia and nightmares as a result of the incident and her eventual imprisonment.
In a statement, Ms Gali said she wanted to warn other women about the danger of working in countries where laws were “archaic.”
“I still feel angry and upset and it’s distressing because I was a victim in all of this and I was punished – the laws have to change to protect women and give them rights and the Australian government should use its influence to push for changes to laws,” the statement read.
“They [UAE] are not complying with human rights, women’s rights and migrant workers’ rights.”
Ms Gali said she thought she would feel safe and protected in the employ of United States international hotel group Starwood Hotels, but believes she was not given the correct advice and no one from the company helped her when she was charged and imprisoned.
Alicia was adament she did not want the incident to be manipulated into an anti-Muslim or anti-Arab attack.
“The men involved were foreign nationals, they were not from the Middle East. Two were from India and one from Mauritius.”
The men were also jailed for the assault, but it is unclear on what charges and for how long.
Newswarped thinks an international hotel chain has an obligation to protect its employees. At the very least they should have provided legal assistance and support to Alicia after she was assaulted.
Hiding behind the laws of the country are unacceptable. An employer has a duty of care to employees regardless of the cicumstances. In Alicia’s case they should have been busting their guts to help her.
As with a lot of wealthy companies, they just want the matter to go away and don’t want any adverse publicity. Well they have plenty of international publicity now.