By  on October 19, 2010

SYDNEY — Four months after Australian department store chain David Jones was hit with a 37 million Australian dollar, or $36.5 million, sexual harassment lawsuit over the behavior of its former chief executive officer, Mark McInnes, the retailer has settled out of court.

Following the conclusion of hearings on Friday at the Australian Human Rights Commission, David Jones on Monday revealed that a settlement of 850,000 Australian dollars, or $837,650, had been reached with plaintiff Kristy Fraser-Kirk, inclusive of all legal and other costs and expenses and a contribution from David Jones and McInnes.

Employed by David Jones for 13 years, seven of those as ceo, McInnes resigned on June 18, tendering a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange stating that on two occasions, he had behaved in “a manner unbecoming of the high standard expected of a chief executive officer to a female staff member.” He was replaced by Paul Zahra. 

On Aug. 2, Fraser-Kirk filed a statement of claim in the Federal Court of Australia against McInnes, David Jones and nine directors, alleging she and several other employees had been sexually harassed by McInnes and that the matters had been brought to the attention of at least three senior David Jones managers. The 37 million Australian dollars in punitive damages sought by Fraser-Kirk made it the country’s biggest sexual harassment claim.

In later submissions, Fraser-Kirk cited 12 witnesses to back up her claims, including 10 current and former employees of David Jones and two former employees of the power tool company Black & Decker, where McInnes had been employed more than 20 years ago — allegations that were vigorously refuted by McInnes.

McInnes left the company with a 2 million Australian dollar, or $1.97 million, payout —about 4 million Australian dollars less than his contracted entitlements.

Fraser-Kirk retains her job as a junior publicist within the company. She said Monday, “This has been a difficult journey but one that I felt was important. The case has led to real debate taking place which I am confident will lead to change.”

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