Vivienne Leggett was bullied out of her job at Hawkesbury Race Club by CEO Greg Rudolph and won a $2.8million payout
A bullying boss whose ongoing campaign of harassment against a female worker led to a multi-million dollar payout has been promoted by his latest employer.
Greg Rudolph was CEO of Hawkesbury Race Club when Vivienne Leggett was forced to quit her role in sponsorship and promotions over his oppressive behaviour.
Ms Leggett, who had worked for the club for 25 years, won the $2.8million payout due to bullying she suffered from Mr Rudolph, and for being denied annual leave, long-service leave and commission payments.
The Federal Court heard Mr Rudolph’s conduct caused Ms Leggett to develop a significant depressive disorder with anxiety that has left her unemployable for almost six years.
The court ruled in Ms Leggett’s favour in February and in late May awarded her the millions in compensation.
In a damning judgement, Justice Steven Rares found the workplace bullying ‘effectively destroyed Mrs Leggett’s life’.
Mr Rudolph, who had previously been deputy chair of stewards with Racing NSW, was hired by South Australia’s equivalent body early this year.
He was initially employed as a senior steward but was recently promoted to racing operations manager in a revamp of the organisation.
Hawkesbury Race Club CEO Greg Rudolph (above) was found to have bullied and harassed Ms Leggett over several months in 2016. The Federal Court heard Mr Rudolph’s conduct caused Ms Leggett to develop a depressive disorder that has left her unemployable for six years
Racing SA chief executive Nick Redin confirmed last month he and his board were comfortable with Mr Rudolph’s appointment to the newly-created job, despite Ms Leggett’s experience.
‘We did our due diligence when Greg joined us,’ Mr Redin told the Herald Sun.
‘We were satisfied with Greg on the way in and we’ve seen nothing since he’s been with us to indicate we should have any cause for concern.’
Ms Leggett’s case included an email she sent Mr Rudolph in which she referred to him screaming at her on the telephone to return to the office when she was at the race barriers.
She described feeling embarrassed by Mr Rudolph’s ‘rude’ demand and said the incident ‘compounded many other situations which I have felt downtrodden, excluded and questioned unreasonably’.
‘I feel like we are reaching an untenable situation which needs to be resolved,’ Ms Leggett wrote.
Vivienne Leggett sent this email to Hawkesbury Race Club CEO Greg Rudolph complaining he had embarrassed her in a screaming phone call ordering her back to the office. The incident ‘compounded many other situations which I have felt downtrodden’ she wrote
Mr Rudolph did not address any of Ms Leggett’s concerns in a response to her email about his behaviour. Instead he asked her to attend a meeting with him the following morning
In response, Mr Rudolph did not address any of Ms Leggett’s concerns, instead telling her to attend his office with the club’s functions manager the following day.
‘Please meet me in my office tomorrow morning at 9am with Joanne Price, to discuss your work performance,’ Mr Rudolph wrote.
‘You may bring a support person with you if you wish.’
When Ms Leggett received that reply she felt ‘even more distressed, emotionally drained and began vomiting’, according to the Federal Court judgement.
The court heard Ms Leggett began employment at the club in 1991 when she was 28 years old, working under then-CEO Brian Fletcher, who described her as a ‘trusted employee’.
Mr Rudolph took over as Hawkesbury Race Club CEO in May 2016. The court heard the new chief began bullying Ms Leggett from the outset, believing she was being paid too much. Hawkesbury racecourse is pictured
She was responsible for bringing in new deals and retaining existing contracts, and was promoted to become the club’s sponsorship and marketing manager.
Mr Rudolph took over as CEO in May 2016 after Mr Fletcher left to take the top job at the Penrith Panthers NRL club.
The court heard the new chief began bullying Ms Leggett from the outset, believing she was being paid too much.
Mr Rudolph would single the sponsorship manager out, micromanage her tasks, relentlessly email her and deny her basic employee benefits.
Ms Leggett complained to Mr Rudolph about his behaviour about four months after he started his new role, explaining the impact it was having on her mentally and her capacity to do her own job.
Vivienne Leggett (pictured) worked in sponsorship and promotions at Hawkesbury Race Club for more than 25 years before quitting due to the treatment of its CEO – before winning $2.8million after taking the club to Federal Court
The Federal Court heard the incident at the barriers on October 9, 2016 and the subsequent email from Mr Rudolph was ‘the last straw’.
Shortly before the start of the day’s last race Mr Rudolph had called Ms Leggett and ‘screamed down the telephone with rage in his voice’.
Ms Leggett said she had previously been told she should ‘feel free’ to be at the barriers ‘whenever’, but Mr Rudolph demanded she return to the office then hung up.
After receiving Mr Rudolph’s response to her email about the incident Ms Leggett got a medical certificate from her GP stating she was unfit to work for the next week.
She emailed the certificate to Mr Rudolph, who later that day forwarded it to his father-in-law, Racing NSW’s respected former chairman of stewards Ray Murrihy, with the comment: ‘Dropping like flies’.
Brian Fletcher (left) was Hawkesbury Race Club’s CEO before Greg Rudolph and described Ms Leggett as a ‘trusted employee’. Mr Rudolph’s father-in law is respected former Racing NSW chief steward Ray Murrihy (right)
Mr Rudolph claimed his email to Ms Leggett asking her to come into his office was sent out of concern for her welfare, which Justice Rares noted could be contrasted with his ‘gloating’ to Mr Murrihy.
‘A genuinely concerned person would not have behaved in this manner,’ Justice Rares found.
‘Rather, Mr Rudolph’s true colours came out in his triumphal statement that reflected what he had been doing for months, namely, trying to force Mrs Leggett out of her job without dismissing her, because he knew that there was no basis to do so.’
On another occasion, upon reviewing Ms Leggett’s use of the club’s credit card, Mr Rudolph questioned her spending $15 on parking. The court heard he often held ‘dogged interrogations’ over expenditures.
Justice Rares found the club was in breach of its contractual obligation and the Fair Work Act for not paying Ms Leggett the benefits she was entitled to.
The court also ruled that the club was negligent in providing a safe work environment for Ms Leggett.
Ms Leggett began employment at the club in 1991 when she was 28 years old, working under then-CEO Brian Fletcher, who described her as a ‘trusted employee’
‘In my opinion, the club’s conduct, through Mr Rudolph, effectively destroyed Mrs Leggett’s life,’ Justice Rares found.
‘She cannot work and, as the joint experts agreed, is permanently incapacitated from doing so because of Mr Rudolph’s and the club’s conduct.’
In an interview with Just Horse Racing, Ms Leggett claimed she had ‘suicidal thoughts’ because of the ordeal but did not have enough money to pay for treatment.
After resigning in 2019, Mr Rudolph said he was proud of his achievements at the helm of Hawkesbury Race Club.
‘The Board and I are proud of what we have achieved during my term, which has extended beyond my initial three year commitment,’ he said.
‘The time is right for me to complete my business studies and to put some more time into various other commitments I have, in charity fields, for example.’