David Jones has offered to settle a 33 million dollar lawsuit brought over the alleged sexual harassment of a publicist by its former head, a report said.
David Jones has offered Kristy Fraser-Kirk “less than a million dollars — or about three percent of what she was hoping for” to settle Australia’s largest sexual harassment claim, the Sun-Herald newspaper reported.
The top-end department store was not immediately available for comment, but the Sunday Telegraph revealed that Fraser-Kirk had filed a harassment complaint against a former colleague when she worked for an Australian police force.
“I discussed … in an informal meeting … how (he) was occasionally invading my personal space and discussed that he please be made aware of that,” she told the paper of the incident.
The claim led to the policeman involved being transferred to the highway patrol, the paper said.
Fraser-Kirk last week filed papers in the federal court claiming 37 million Australian dollars (33 million US) in punitive damages against David Jones and its former chief executive Mark McInnes over his alleged unwelcome advances.
She claimed McInnes, who quit in June over the incident, had placed his hand under her clothes, touched her bra strap and attempted to kiss her. She claims the store and its directors failed in their duty of care to her.
“I am a young woman standing here today simply because I said it wasn’t OK, because I said this should never happen to me or to anyone. I just want to be treated with respect,” she told a news conference set up by her publicist last week.
But the Sun-Herald said David Jones’ offer to settle for a fraction of her claim could mean that if she refuses and loses the case, she risks having to foot millions of dollars in legal fees.
McInnes resigned after admitting behaving “in a manner unbecoming of a chief executive to a female staff member” at two functions earlier this year, but said last week he would vigorously contest Fraser-Kirk’s specific allegations.
“I have no alternative other than to vigorously contest them and I will.” The store has also said it will fight the claim.