DJs sex case ends boozy Christmas parties

Harassment fallout

The David Jones sexual harassment case might just be the Grinch to steal the office Christmas party this year, a Brisbane lawyer has warned.

Bennett and Philp lawyer Mark O’Connor said companies may rethink traditional boozy staff office parties out of fear of potential sexual harassment cases.

The warning has sparked outrage from a women’s group.

Last week David Jones publicist Kristy Fraser-Kirk (pictured) received an $850,000 settlement after suing the retailer, directors and a former CEO for $37 million in the high-profile case.

She said Mr McInnes made unwelcome sexual advances to her and claimed the retailer tolerated his continuing sexual misconduct.

“Sexual harassment in the workplace is inexcusable but the unspoken fear now is that opportunistic claims may be made by young staff egged on by a precedent-setting payout beyond their wildest dreams,” Mr O’Connor said.

“The office Christmas party is likely to be the first casualty as firms get tougher on staff and management fraternisation.

“Rather than having a long, boozy Christmas party, they’re having a structured dinner where you sit around a table and it begins at 7 and is all over by 10pm,” he said.

Women’s Electoral Lobby spokeswoman Eva Cox said warnings like this were “utter stupidity”.

“He’s assuming that men can’t keep their hands to themselves,” she said. “People don’t make (harassment) claims easily. There’s a lot of embarrassment and discomfort in making claims.”

Ms Cox said the comments were disrespectful to victims of sexual harassment and women in general.

“It indicates a really deep sexism,” she said.

She said targeting Christmas parties was short-sighted.

“(Companies) need to make sure they have clear guidelines that say you don’t use your power to make people do things they don’t want to do.”

Article from The Courier Mail, October 21, 2010.


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