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David Jones Hit by Harassment Suit

Employee files $33.8 million lawsuit against the Australian retailer.

SYDNEY — Six weeks after David Jones’ chief executive officer Mark McInnes resigned in the wake of sexual harassment allegations, the Australian department store chain has been hit with a 37 million Australian dollar, or $33.8 million, lawsuit.

On Monday, David Jones publicist Kristy Fraser-Kirk, 25, filed a statement of claim in the Federal Court of Australia against McInnes, David Jones and the company’s current directors alleging that she and four other employees had been sexually harassed by McInnes.

Fraser-Kirk claims that her matter had been brought to the attention of at least three senior David Jones managers.

The statement alleges that McInnes had attempted to kiss and touch Fraser-Kirk, in addition to using sexually explicit language around her and sending a campaign of text messages and e-mails in a bid to procure sexual favours.

David Jones chairman Robert Savage, chief financial officer Stephen Goddard and new ceo Paul Zahra were all named as respondents.

“Both the company and its directors will defend the claims vigorously,” David Jones said. In the statement, the company reaffirmed its after-tax profit guidance of 5 to 10 percent for both fiscal 2010 and fiscal 2011 as advised on June 18.

The case is scheduled for a hearing on Aug. 30.

Fraser-Kirk alleges that an ingrained culture of sexual harassment within the company contravened her right to a safe workplace. In addition, she said David Jones engaged in deceptive and misleading conduct under the Australian Trade Practices Act when Savage downplayed her case as an isolated incident in his statement on June 18, the date of McInnes’ resignation.

Fraser-Kirk is seeking 5 percent of David Jones’ 700 million Australian dollar, or $639 million, profits during McInnes’ 2003-2010 tenure as ceo and 2 million Australian dollars, or $1.82 million, equivalent to 5 percent of his salary over the same period.