Fired Energy Australia director 'out for revenge', court told
Energy Australia says a woman suing the company for unlawfully ending her employment is using the lawsuit to "destroy" its managing director's reputation.
Former director of corporate and government affairs, Kate Shea, is suing the company - previously called TRUenergy - in the Federal Court for unlawfully terminating her employment after she reported allegations that she had been sexually harassed by then chief financial officer Kevin Holmes and complained of the sexual harassment culture at work.
Justin Bourke, SC, for Energy Australia, said on Wednesday that Ms Shea was using the lawsuit to damage and destroy managing director Richard McIndoe's reputation after he fired her in 2012.
"[You are] determined to seek revenge on Mr McIndoe and see him be forced out of the business," he said. Mr Bourke drew parallels to the sexual harassment claims made against David Jones' former chief executive Mark McInnes, claims which led to his resignation in 2010.
Ms Shea acknowledged the lawsuit would affect Mr McIndoe, but said: "I'm not going to protect someone who's done the wrong thing. My focus was on getting the company to do something about things that were not right."
A text message she sent in 2012 referring to Mr McIndoe as a "dead man walking" reflected the views of others in the company.
Ms Shea claimed Mr McIndoe had often made comments about women's appearance in the workplace. She conceded that apart from casual asides, she had never raised it with him formally in the 4 years they had worked together, even though part of her job was to manage his reputation.
"(It was) his responsibility. I'm not sure it's my job to tell my boss how to behave," she said.
Energy Australia claims Ms Shea was fired not because she complained of a culture of sexual harassment, but as part of the company's restructure.
Mr Bourke said claims Ms Shea went to Sydney with a friend on the company's expense without taking leave were also a factor in her termination.
Ms Shea said she had paid for her flights to Sydney, where she visited her husband's doctor, and worked the rest of the day. Her husband has a long-term medical condition.
Energy Australia also argues that Ms Shea was not protected by the Fair Work Act because she did not make a complaint of sexual harassment against the company's former chief financial officer in good faith.
Ms Shea reported that Mr Holmes sexually harassed her - touching her back, neck and thigh - at a work function in Hong Kong in 2010.
Mr Bourke said Mr Holmes had put his arm around her to comfort her, when she became upset talking about her husband's medical condition. Ms Shea rejected this.