The woman at the center of the texting scandal that forced former Australian Test cricket captain Tim Paine to resign has been dealt a major blow in her legal battle with Cricket Tasmania.
Renee Ferguson alleges she was sexually harassed by four other staff members between August 2015 and December 2017 while working in reception at Cricket Tasmania (CT).
She claims that three CT employees made inappropriate sexual comments to her, and two of the four defendants sent her explicit photos.
Ms Ferguson was seeking $1 million in compensation from Cricket Tasmania for alleged sexual harassment in her workplace.
Cricket Tasmania and four employees have denied wrongdoing.
The claims were made in a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2018, but were later dismissed when it was found that there was no reasonable prospect of the complaint being heard.
Ms Ferguson had 60 days from the date of her dismissal to take her complaint to the Federal Court, but the Federal Court was told she waited two years and 10 months to proceed.
The former Cricket Tasmania employee sought an extension of time to apply, but Judge Mordie Bromberg refused the application in the Federal Court on Thursday.
He said there was insufficient evidence to support Ms Ferguson’s claims that the nearly three-year delay was due to her mental state and her fear of revisiting the trauma of the alleged sexual harassment.
The court was told that Ms Ferguson did not call on medical professionals to give evidence and did not produce any documents to prove her health.
“There is little to explain Ms Ferguson’s failure to apply for nearly three years other than a subjective fear of re-injury,” Judge Bromberg said.
While he did not discount the “genuine fear,” he decided that the evidence was ultimately insufficient to justify a delay in pursuing charges.
Mr Justice Bromberg decided Ms Ferguson had not adequately explained the lengthy delay, which was likely to prejudice Cricket Tasmania and the accused staff.
“I am not satisfied that it would be in the interests of justice to allow Ms Ferguson to apply so late,” he ruled.
The Federal Court judge emphasized that the court’s decision relates to the delay in bringing charges and does not determine the merits of Ms Ferguson’s allegations of sexual harassment.
“I want to emphasize that my decision is not a vindication of either Ms. Ferguson or TCA’s version of events,” he said.
Ms Ferguson’s tenure at Cricket Tasmania came under scrutiny in November 2021 when open texts sent to her by former Test captain Tim Paine became public.
Mr Payne resigned over the text messages, which were sent in 2017 while Ms Ferguson was employed by Cricket Tasmania.
Despite Thursday’s decision, Ms Ferguson remains embroiled in another legal battle with Cricket Tasmania.
Ms Ferguson will be back in the Hobart Magistrates Court next year to fight charges of stealing thousands of dollars and membership of a sports association while she worked as a receptionist.
She pleaded not guilty to more than 60 counts of theft and two counts of dishonestly obtaining financial gain.
Originally published as A major legal blow for the woman at the center of Tim Payne’s sexting scandal