When it comes to executives using strippers and prostitutes to please clients, The Wolf of Wall Street has nothing on reality, says high-profile sexual harassment lawyer Michael Harmer.
Harmer said he had acted in many cases in recent years where well known employers paid from A$1 million ($1.1 million) to A$3.5m to quietly settle sexual harassment and indirect discrimination complaints.
In all the cases, strippers, brothels or other sexual entertainment were "part of doing business".
Far from being a relic of the 1980s or limited to the odd union official, Harmer said he and his firm, Harmers Workplace Lawyers, had acted for women suing their employers in the legal, accounting, finance and property industries.
"It's across those sectors and is seen as part of doing business and I object to it," he said in an interview.
In one case Harmer acted in, the chief executive of a financial entity was accused of charging "sexual entertainment" to his corporate credit card.
"Meanwhile, the global chairman of the same organisation flies in and puts a brothel on his corporate credit card before he even touches base [with the office]," Harmer said.
In matters where there were multimillion dollar settlement sums, the use of sexual services was not the only issue but it helped create a culture where discrimination and sexual harassment of women flourished, he said.
Women often suffered indirect discrimination because they found it harder than men to do business in a "boozie, boysey atmosphere" where clients were routinely offered sexual entertainment. The situation often led to direct discrimination or sexual harassment, he said.
"Where alcohol and the degradation of women is used as entertainment, you can get an overstepping of the mark by either other employees or clients," he said.
Some employers were "turning a blind eye" or encouraging the use of sexual services to generate revenue, he said.
Paying for the pleasure
There is little evidence of how widespread the practice is. Very few similar matters have ended up being decided by courts or tribunals, although a number of companies offer adult entertainment specifically for corporate events. Glamor Promotions, for example, offers Sydney harbour cruises with "eye candy" for corporate clients, according to its website.
The matters Harmer discussed haven't been aired publicly because they were settled out of court. The female complainants walked away with a payout but had to sign gagging clauses preventing them or their lawyers from naming names.
He wanted to raise the issue because things were less likely to change when businesses "pay for the pleasure" and settle with a confidentiality agreement.
Harmer is chairman of Harmers Workplace Lawyers and has run high-profile sexual harassment cases, including acting for Christina Rich against her former employer PricewaterhouseCoopers, and for Kristy Fraser-Kirk against retailer David Jones and its then chief executive Mark McInnes.
Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick said she had been contacted by women who were worried about attending the annual "Diggers and Dealers" conference in Kalgoorlie, which is on again next week.
Broderick said women were concerned about functions that often involved near-naked barmaids known as "skimpies".
She said she had contacted senior people in the mining industry about it two years ago and had received no further complaints.
Perhaps conference attendees got the message. Last year, The Australian Financial Review reported that Kalgoorlie skimpies had suffered a serious downturn in business. One skimpy at Kalgoorlie nightspot The Exchange said she had earned thousands on the opening night of the conference in 2012 and A$300 in 2013.
Broderick said the use of sexualised entertainment in the corporate world was "highly risky".
"It also speaks to a potentially hostile work environment which can lay the basis for sexual harassment complaints," she said.