Ex-David Jones CEO ‘ha­rasses’ more work­ers, says lawyer

The Pak Banker - - Company+Boss News -

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

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