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Execs at Australia’s Retail Giant Embroiled in $37M “Landmark” Sex Suit

Australia – from – David Jones and its former chief executive, Mark McInnes, are being sued for about $37 million over allegations of sexual misconduct.

A series of allegations against Mr McInnes are outlined in a statement of claim to the Federal Court.

These include allegations of repeated unwanted kisses, touching, and text messages from Mr McInnes towards five employees, including Kristy Fraser-Kirk [pictured], who worked in the marketing department.

Ms Fraser-Kirk says the first incident involving her happened on May 23, 2010 at a lunch hosted by David Jones.

She alleges Mr McInnes urged her to try a dessert at the event by describing it as, “like a f*** in the mouth”.

She also says he placed his hand under her clothing to the point where it touched her bra strap, and made repeated requests for her to come to Bondi (where Mr McInnes lives) with the implication the visit would be for the purpose of sexual intercourse.

The statement of claim alleges Mr McInnes also lifted her off the ground while repeating the request for her to come to Bondi with him.

It is alleged all these events happened in public view of other David Jones employees.

Ms Fraser-Kirk says when she reported the first incident, she was told that Mr McInnes had behaved in a similar way at a Caulfield Cup event in 2009.

She alleges the general manager of David Jones public relations told her, “next time that happens, you just need to be very clear and say ‘no Mark’ and he’ll back off”.

She also alleges that in the following days she received a series of email messages from Mr McInnes repeating his invitation for Ms Fraser-Kirk to join him at his Bondi home.

Ms Fraser-Kirk says she then told her supervisor that she did not want to attend another function at which Mr McInnes was going to be present because she was worried about further sexual advances.

However, Ms Fraser-Kirk says David Jones required her to attend a function on June 7 at a house in Rose Bay.

She alleges that during, or just after the function, Mr McInnes again repeatedly asked her to accompany him to Bondi.

Ms Fraser-Kirk says he tried to kiss her on the mouth while grabbing her around the waist, and then tried to kiss her while putting his hand under the front of her clothes to the bottom of her bra while she turned her head and pulled away to try and avoid the contact.

She says she repeatedly told Mr McInnes not to touch her or kiss her, and also used a taxi door as a barrier.

She says he later invited her to dinner by saying, “I could have had guaranteed sex with that brunette last night [at the June 7 function] but I wanted you”.

After a further advance by text message, Ms Fraser-Kirk says she reported Mr McInnes’s continued conduct to the public relations manager on June 9.

Mr McInnes resigned as David Jones chief executive on June 18.

The claim says Ms Fraser-Kirk has suffered damages to her personal and professional reputation as a result.

She is seeking punitive damages of 5 per cent of the profit generated by David Jones from 2003 to 2010 and 5 per cent of Mr McInnes’s salary.

If successful, Ms Fraser-Kirk wants the money to go a charity helping people in the area of sexual harassment and bullying.

Ms Fraser-Kirk held a short media conference where she announced that she is setting up a help line for any other women at David Jones who may feel they have been subjected to inappropriate behaviour.

“This has been a devastating period in my life – for me personally, for my professional career, and for the effect that it is having on my family and my friends,” she said.

“I am a young woman standing here today simply because I said it wasn’t OK. Because I said that this should never happen to me or to anyone. I just wanted to be treated with respect.”

She declined to take questions as the case is before the court.

The company has issued a statement saying both it and its directors will be defending the claims against them “vigorously”.

It has also reaffirmed its profit guidance despite the $37 million claim hanging over it.

from – A woman who claims that the former head of David Jones sexually harassed her has spoken of the personal and professional impact the matter has had on her life.

Kristy Fraser-Kirk, 25, a junior publicist who is suing former David Jones chief executive Mark McInnes and the retail giant for about $37 million, said the alleged harassment had been devastating.

Speaking at her Cremorne home in Sydney this afternoon, Ms Fraser-Kirk thanked her family and friends who supported her decision to take legal action.

“I’m a young woman standing here today simply because I said it wasn’t OK, because I said that this should never happen to me or to anyone,” she said.

“I just wanted to be treated with respect.”

Ms Fraser-Kirk’s allegations forced the resignation of Mr McInnes.

In a landmark claim lodged today in the Federal Court, Ms Fraser-Kirk is seeking 5 per cent of the profits made by David Jones and 5 per cent of Mr McInnes’s salary while he worked for the company.

If successful she will donate the money to a charity that helps victims of sexual harassment and bullying, the statement of claim said.

Ms Fraser-Kirk alleges she informed David Jones management about Mr McInnes’s unwelcome advances on several occasions, and on one occasion was told: “Next time that happens, you just need to be very clear and say ‘no Mark’ and he’ll back off.”

Ms Fraser-Kirk alleges that Mr McInnes made unwelcome comments of a sexual nature and unwelcome sexual advances towards her at a lunch function on May 23 celebrating the renewal of a David Jones contract with racing identity Gai Waterhouse.

“McInnes urges Fraser-Kirk to try a dessert by saying the dessert was like a f— in the mouth,” the statement of claim alleges that he said to her.

He later allegedly placed his hand under her clothes, touching her bra strap and repeatedly asked her to accompany him to his Bondi home “where the clear implication [was] that such as visit would be for the purpose of sexual intercourse”, the claim alleges.

Ms Fraser-Kirk claims she made it clear his conduct was unwelcome and had attempted to use distracting banter to deflect the sexually suggestive conversation.

The claim alleges Mr McInnes made no effort to conceal his conduct from other employees that day.

The following day, Mr McInnes sent Ms Fraser-Kirk a series of emails which repeated that she meet him at his home, the claim says.

On June 7, they attended a function at a private home in Rose Bay for La Prairie cosmetics at which Ms Fraser-Kirk alleges Mr McInnes repeated his desire for her to go home with him before trying to kiss her on the mouth while putting his arm around her.

“McInnes then again attempted to kiss Fraser-Kirk on the mouth while placing his hand on Fraser-Kirk’s stomach before moving it under her clothes so that his hand reached the bottom of [her] bra while [she] was pulling away from his unwelcome touch and turning to the left so that he could not kiss her on the mouth,” the statement of claim alleges.

The retailer issued a statement to the market in the afternoon signalling its intention to fight the allegations in court.

“Both the company and its directors will defend the claims vigorously,” David Jones said in a statement lodged with the Australian Securities Exchange.

“In view of the court proceedings, it is inappropriate for the company to make any further comment on this matter.”


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