Ex-David Jones CEO ‘harasses’ more workers, says lawyer
SYDNEY: David Jones Ltd.'s former Chief Executive Officer Mark McInnes sexually harassed eight more women who had worked for him, said a lawyer for a woman who sued for A$37 million ($33 million) and four others who complained.
Three more current or former David Jones workers also claim they were sexually harassed by others at the Australian department store chain and may be added to the lawsuit filed by Kristy FraserKirk, her lawyer Rachel Francois said at a federal court hearing in Sydney today.
McInnes made repeated, unwelcome, sexual advances, Fraser-Kirk, a 27-year-old publicist at the country's second-biggest department store chain, claimed in an Aug. 2 lawsuit. Her claim for punitive damages of 5 percent of the company's profit and McInnes's earnings from 2003 to 2010 amounts to about A$37 million, which she says will be given to charity.
The sexual harassment "was part of the employment culture that was not addressed by David Jones," Francois said. David Jones is prepared to compensate Fraser-Kirk "fairly for any loss or damage she has incurred," if she chooses not to return to work, the company said in an e-mailed statement today. "If she is not open to this, we will defend the claim."
None of the allegations made today were reported to a complaints hotline the company has in place, Helen Karlis, a David Jones spokeswoman, said in the statement.
McInnes, 45, who resigned after Fraser-Kirk first complained, said on Aug. 15 that many of her allegations "are simply not true."
"These new allegations are unstated, unsourced and unsubstantiated," McInnes said in a statement today. "This is an intolerable position." He said he would respond in his statement of defense, which will be filed by Sept. 24.
McInnes's lawyer Tony Meagher and David Jones's lawyer Kate Eastman both pressed federal court judge Geoffrey Flick to order the case to trial quickly.
"David Jones would like to have this matter resolved as soon as possible," Eastman said. McInnes wishes to have it dealt with "expeditiously," Meagher said.
Fraser-Kirk and her family attended today's hearing, sitting in the front row of the courtroom on the 22nd floor of the federal courthouse. McInnes didn't attend. FraserKirk declined to comment. Meagher said he couldn't comment beyond what he said in court. Flick urged both sides to deal with issues before the court, such as timetables, and not to introduce new claims at hearings. "If anyone wants to issue a press release, they can do it outside, not in this courtroom," Flick said.
He agreed to give Francois until Sept. 10 to change FraserKirk's statement of claim, to add the additional complainants, over objections from David Jones's and McInnes's lawyers who wanted a week earlier deadline.
Flick said he wanted a trial in November or December. Fraser-Kirk will seek a jury trial, Francois said.
Fraser-Kirk said David Jones ignored her complaints of unwanted advances, with her immediate supervisor and the company's general manager of public relations advising her to tell McInnes to "back off" the next time it happened. That contravened the company's policy that harassment in the workplace wouldn't be tolerated, according to her claim.
The punitive damages sought apply to the company's profit from 2003 to this year, the period when McInnes was chief executive. -Bloomberg