Rockingham council worker sacked after sending picture of penis to female colleague

Stock image.
Stock image.

A FORMER City of Rockingham employee who bombarded a younger female co-worker with text messages and sent her a picture of his penis has had his unfair dismissal case rejected by the Fair Work Commission (FWC).

During the hearing on June 13, it was revealed Colin Ramon Reguero-Puente (45) sent inappropriate text messages, many with sexual overtones, to younger subordinates.

The Commission was told Mr Reguero-Puente sent an unsolicited photograph of his penis to a 23-year-old co-worker and repeatedly requested she send an inappropriate photograph of herself.

A City of Rockingham investigator, who gave evidence at the hearing, said the woman sent a nude photo, but immediately regretted it.

The co-worker told the investigator she felt pressured and harassed into providing the photograph, given his seniority.

In another text exchange between Mr Reguero-Puente and the 23-year-old, he said: “Don’t worry, I checked the eba. Not on the clock so doesn’t matter.”

The woman said “Don’t get yourself in trouble, or me.”

Two days later Mr Reguero-Puente said “Prob over stepped the mark. But I must admit I enjoyed it …” and the woman responded with “Haha!! Just a little … maybe …”

In another text to the woman he said “I’ve always wanted to play … you just didn’t know it … being your ‘boss’ and all …”.

On one night in September, 2017 from 10pm to 5.27pm, Mr Reguero-Puente sent 70 messages without her responding.

A few nights later he sent 66 messages from 8.44pm to 5.55am and she did not respond.

A City of Rockingham allegation letter tendered to the FWC claimed Mr Reguero-Puente made inappropriate comments such as “your arse looks good, but I cant say that as I have done my sexual harassment course so I can’t” and “You look hot – did I just say that out loud?” to another female colleague.

He also made comments about the colleague being ‘kinky’ due to the presence of cable ties in his work vehicle and whether she was loud in the bedroom.

The letter said Mr Reguero-Puente told the woman “no one can know about these messages – no matter what. I am kidding with the sexual overtones so I will cut back … It’s just my banter.”

In another message he said “Aaaahhh… can’t let you in all my secrets. Might need them to go up against you one day. When you have me on sexual harassment.”

The FWC hearing was told the woman did not tell him to stop sending messages, but they were not welcome.

The woman said she felt obliged to respond to his messages because he held a position of seniority.

She did not approach senior management for fear Mr Reguero-Puente could make her life difficult.

Mr Reguero-Puente asked in a text to another colleague if she had the “just been f****d look” and asked for a photograph of her “all dolled up.”

The woman asked him to stop sending her text messages and ignored subsequent messages.

Another staff member said she did respond to Mr Reguero-Puente’s messages initially, but the content and timing of his messages became inappropriate and she stopped engaging in banter with him.

In response Mr Reguero-Puente sent her a text message: “Please don’t tell anyone I messaged you. I have already had a talking to. I was genuinely concerned for you. My deepest and sincere honest apologies. I promise it will not happen again. I will delete your number.”

Mr Reguero-Puente was employed by the City for almost 28 years in building surveyor roles.

Two employees complained about him sending them unwelcome and unsolicited emails and text messages after hours and on weekends.

Mr Reguero-Puente was warned about his behaviour, but when he continued to send unwanted messages the City started an investigation.

Mr Reguero-Puente was dismissed by the City of Rockingham on December 6, 2017 after the investigator substantiated 19 allegations of misconduct.

Three weeks later, Mr Reguero-Puente filed an unfair dismissal application against the City of Rockingham with the FWC.

FWC deputy president Melanie Binet said the key pillar of Mr Reguero-Puente’s defence was the women should have told him to stop.

“Some of the women gave evidence that they did in fact do so and it made no difference,” she said.

“Others clearly tried to curtail conversations that Mr Reguero-Puente was trying to lead in an inappropriate direction. Others admittedly participated.

“All say that to the extent that they did respond, they felt they had little choice given Mr Reguero-Puente’s seniority and his behaviour in the workplace.

“Despite Mr Reguero-Puente’s assertion that he genuinely believed his conduct was at all times welcome and reciprocated, the text message histories he tendered reveals that he was aware that there are boundaries of acceptable behaviour and that he had overstepped those boundaries.”

Ms Binet said as soon as the City became aware of his conduct, Mr Reguero-Puente was told his behaviour was inappropriate and that it must stop.

“Nevertheless, Mr Reguero-Puente continued to engage with much younger, more junior staff in an inappropriate manner,” she said.

The City of Rockingham acting chief executive Bob Jeans said the City was pleased the Fair Work Commission vindicated the City’s course of action to terminate the employment of Mr Reguero-Puente.

“The City has a zero tolerance policy towards bullying and sexual harassment in the workplace,” he said.

“The City aspires to be an employer of choice and provide a safe and happy workplace for all employees.”

Mr Jeans said the City had established a working group including staff representatives from all areas of the workforce to review existing sexual harassment and bullying policies and procedures.

“The review will ensure the City is capturing the latest best practice approach in the reporting, handling and outcomes of sexual harassment and bullying allegations, for both complainants and defendants,” he said.

Mr Jeans said in this specific incident the City provided immediate options for the complainants by offering ongoing support, confidential counselling and the ability to access legal representation.

“City staff met with the complainants continually throughout the process to offer support; including up to and after the Fair Work Commission hearing,” he said.

Mr Reguero-Puente was contacted for comment.