Alice Shaw

Is $37 Million Enough?

In Opinion on August 3, 2010 at 11:10 am

Why shouldn’t Kristy Fraser-Kirk sue for damages?  She had to endure unwanted sexual advances from a man in such a high position that she could easily lose her job should he decide to make it so.  She allegedly told her employers of the sexual harassment she was suffering on a regular basis and they apparently did nothing.  She, like hundreds of other women, of all ages, was subjected to the kind of behaviour that is quite simply not acceptable in a place of employment but which is still accepted, in many work places.  Some men, no matter what, will consider you to be fair game, because you are a woman.  I challenge any woman to go to work, or to a social gathering with a group of women, and ask around about who has been subjected to sexual innuendo, unwanted touching, an inference that their job will be made a lot easier if they are “nice” to the boss.  I think you would be hard pressed to find many women who have not been subjected to this behaviour, on some level, through their working lives.

 Columnists such as Susie O’Brien do all women a grave disservice by suggesting that since rape victims get as little as $50,000 in compensation, then Ms Fraser-Kirk’s claim is way over the top.  This claim highlights just how badly Australia treats its rape victims.  When women are the victims of such crimes there seems to be a suggestion that the victim must prove her derservingness for compensation.  She seemingly must disprove that she did anything that might provoke sexually offensive behaviour.

 I applaud Ms Fraser-Kirk.  The 7pm Project stated this evening that everyone seemed to be talking about the money, rather than the sexual harassment itself.  I firmly believe that if there was no $37 million claim, then no one would be talking about the incident at all.  The millions of dollars that Ms Fraser-Kirk is claiming are punitive damages.  Punitive means to punish.  Does anyone really believe that $100,000 or so will make any difference at all to a multi-billion dollar company like David Jones?  Is that amount really going to punish them?  Has Mark McInnes actually learned his lesson, or has he just scuttled off overseas to enjoy his life, away from the spotlight, to potentially go on and behave the same way in some future job?  If he loses an amount equivalent to 5% of his salary then perhaps that will make him think twice.  The $37 million claim is not about greed, or making up for losing a job.  It is about punishing those who allowed this young woman to go through this level of harassment.  It is to send a crystal clear message to any other high flying company and it’s executives that if you force yourself upon a female employee, there will be consequences.  Hopefully $37 million worth of consequences in this particular case will be an adequate deterrent.

 Ms Frazer-Kirk has stated that she will give any punitive damages awarded to her to a women’s charity to assist women who have been victims of sexually offensive behaviour.  This is an honourable gesture on her part and she should be applauded for making it rather than having her character called into question by those who suggest that she won’t follow through with this promise.

 Discussion surrounding the sexual misconduct of Mr McInnes, the response by David Jones to her allegedly drawing their attention to the matter, and the subsequent legal action brought by Ms Fraser-Kirk must not become about discrediting the victim.  Mr McInnes was the perpetrator and the suggestion is that to some extent, David Jones allegedly sought to cover up his behaviour.  There needs to be accountability and there needs to be a clear and firm message sent to every male employer, who holds a position of power, that it is not okay for them to use this power in order to satisfy their own sexual needs.  It is not okay for anybody in a position of power to utilise their position in order to seek to gain sexual acquiescence from any of their employees.

 Any person who victimises their employees through sexual misconduct should hang their heads in shame and resign immediately.  They are undeserving of their high ranking, highly paid positions. 

 So, is $37 million enough to stop sexual harassment and intimidation in the work place?  Let’s hope so.

  1. Here Here A. I’ll be watching this one with great interest..

  2. Great comment on this developing story, It is good to see someone putting the facts before the “story”

  3. My thoughts exactly. I find it so frustrating to hear people discussing this case without understanding what “Punitive Damages” are. Susie O’Brien was an embarassment on the 7pm Project. I think Kristy Fraser Kirk is one brave girl and I have a great deal of admiration and respect for her strength in all of this.

  4. I’ll be standing by…it will be very interesting to watch over this whole thing. I truly hope the media will act with integrity and dignity and not slam Ms. Fraser Kirk as a Gold digger as some have already done just for the sake of a headline. I think she is a very brave woman for taking a stand and I applaud her.

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