x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Hotel defends claim it failed to protect staffer in rape case

An Australian woman has been cleared to file for damages against her former employer in Fujairah.

A hotel has defended itself against allegations that it failed to a protect a member of staff who was allegedly drugged and raped by co-workers, and then sentenced to eight months in prison on charges of adultery.

Alicia Gali is to file for damages in an Australian court against her former employer, the Le Meridien Al Aqah, a five-star hotel in Fujairah.

The 29-year-old former beauty salon manager claims to have been drugged and raped by three co-workers on the hotel premises in June 2008.

After reporting the accusations to authorities, she was then jailed for adultery and spent eight months in prison before being released in March 2009.

After a hearing last Friday at Brisbane Supreme Court, Ms Gali's legal team at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers were given leave to sue the hotel for failing to protect employees from abuse.

However, the owners of the resort, Starwood Hotels, deny that there was any neglect.

"The safety and security of our associates and guests continues to be a paramount priority," a spokesman said, adding that the circumstances of Ms Gali's case were "deplorable".

"The hotel management provided support and assistance to Ms Gali and her family throughout that time, including assisting with medical support, arranging for financial support, assistance with the investigation, liaising with her representative Australian embassy and co-ordinating and arranging affairs with her family in Australia.

"As this matter is part of an open investigation, we cannot comment further at this time."

Ms Gali's lawyer, Melissa Payne, said that her client had been "angered" by the hotel's statement.

"The hotel failed to offer her any support while she was in jail," she said. "There was no medical support following the assault.

"Her family asked the hotel to give her small amounts of money for personal hygiene products while she was in prison, and that came from her salary which was owed by the hotel. Her family paid all the legal bills."

She said that the case was in the "pre-court phase" and as yet there were no scheduled hearings. She declined to say whether Ms Gali was pursuing an out-of-court settlement and how much she was seeking. She added, however, that the hotel had not been in contact with Ms Gali or her legal firm.

Ms Gali claims that she was offered no instruction from the hotel on the legality of consuming alcohol nor on what the consequences would be for reporting a sexual assault under those circumstances.

"I thought I would be safe and protected in an international hotel group," she said in a written statement earlier this week. "They didn't give me the correct advice and didn't help me when I was charged and imprisoned.

"I still feel angry and upset and it's distressing, because I was a victim in all this and I was punished."

 

mcroucher@thenational.ae