A Sydney woman is suing swimming club Bondi Icebergs for $20,000 after it banned her following her repeated complaints about inappropriate behaviour from patrons and staff.
The 28-year-old woman, who asked not to be identified, filed a formal complaint against the world-famous club with the Australian Human Rights Commission, alleging it violated the Sex Discrimination Act on multiple occasions. She’s seeking $5,000 in legal fees and $15,000 in “damages for hurt and humiliation as well as the reputational harm resulting from the Club’s unlawful treatment of me”.
The woman alleges she was repeatedly sexually harassed, “leered” at and oggled by “older, creepy men” at the club’s pool and sauna, but that her complaints weren’t taken seriously by the venue, per news.com.au.
She said that all she requested in her complaints was a sign to be erected that states “leering, harassment or disrespectful behaviour is not tolerated”. She asked that men who behave inappropriately toward women at the pool and violate this rule be banned — something she says she has seen no action on, despite initial agreement from the club.
In her complaint to the AHRC, the woman accused Bondi Icebergs of “wilful negligence to create a safe and lawful environment for women”.
She said that while she has made many friends during her time as a member of the club, a “deeply embedded culture of misogyny and sexual entitlement towards women, particularly young women, within the sauna has emerged”.
“I frequently either experience sexual harassment and abuse myself or witness it directed towards other women,” she wrote, and included instances she had allegedly witnessed of women and teenage girls being harassed by older men.
She alleged that on one occasion a “much older man” approached her, gestured toward her body and said: “Everyone who is here is here because they want a body like yours”. On another occasion, when she apologised for blocking a man’s view, she alleged he responded “No, not at all, the views only got better”. At one point, a man allegedly spread his legs to expose his crotch, and asked her what she thought of “man-spreading”.
The woman wrote that creepiness in the club was normalised and “happens almost daily”, with men staring at her breasts and comments sometimes escalating into unwanted touching where men would “accidentally” rub their bodies against her. She alleged there had been times where even staff members had stared at her backside and made her uncomfortable.
After she emailed a complaint to the Bondi Icebergs, the woman said she was told her complaints were too difficult to investigate given their lack of “hard facts” such as the names of the men she felt harassed her, what time the events occured, etc.
However, she accused the swimming club of “creating impossible standards” for her to reach “in order to validate my experiences and consider them true”, especially given the “transient” nature of the club and its attendees.
After a lot of back-and-forth between herself and club management, she was informed that she would be banned from attending the club because of the “stress” she caused staff.
“I have done some preliminary investigations today and discovered several alternate views to the ones you have expressed over a period of time,” the club said to her per news.com.au.
“There is no doubt that your allegations and the tone of your allegations have put an enormous degree of stress on all those concerned included [sic] staff but more importantly on yourself.”
The club said it was “deeply concerned” about its “ability to provide the environment” that the woman asked for, “and the fact you continue to put yourself in this alleged environment that causes you so much grief, stress and frustration”.
It said it made the decision to “remove” her “from the toxic environment you allege it is”.
Um, “put yourself into this alleged environment”? “Several alternate views”? Yikes.
The woman slammed the email and claimed it “directly punished” her for raising a formal complaint, essentially suspending her membership and banning her instead of just erecting the sign and taking action like she had asked.
PEDESTRIAN.TV reached out to Bondi Icebergs for comment but it did not respond to our questions by the time of publication.
However, Bondi Icebergs did speak to news.com.au, and it had this to say: “We get between 5,000 to 7,000 guests to the pool each week, weather permitting. This is the only complaint we have ever received along these lines.”
The woman’s case is scheduled for mediation on November 14.
This article was edited to remove the woman’s name per her request.