Former executive sues Optus for $14.5m damages over a 'dysfunctional culture' of bullying
Seeking damages … Kerry Morrison. Photo: Helen Nezdropa
A FORMER Optus marketing executive is suing for $14.5 million in damages amid allegations of ''bullying, suppression and victimisation'' within the company which she said prevented her from doing her job.
The telecommunications company said it would defend the ''unjustified claims''.
The former head of sales, service and marketing in the digital media division Kerry Morrison left the company on February 7 after seven months in the job.
Harmers Workplace Lawyers filed a statement of claim in the Federal Court in NSW last week alleging SingTel Optus failed to protect their client from a ''known bully'', terminated her employment without notice, and tried to prevent her from exercising her workplace rights.
Along with damages for the impact on her reputation and future earnings, Ms Morrison was also seeking orders ''designed to ensure that the dysfunctional culture of bullying, suppression and victimisation at the Optus Group is reformed''.
She alleges Optus failed to warn her about tensions between the company's digital media division, headed by Austin Bryan, and the consumer division, including ''known strong tensions in the relationship between Bryan and [head of consumer] Michael Smith; the protection of under-performing internal and external parties; [and] the role of Michael Smith as a known bully highly protective of the revenue of the consumer division''.
Harmers allege Mr Smith would not support Ms Morrison's initiatives to boost online sales ''as it would lead to a decline of sales through retail'', which he managed.
Tensions peaked at a meeting between the two on January 11 when Mr Smith allegedly ''started screaming at [Ms Morrison] and became physically aggressive and overbearing to the point where [Ms Morrison] became fearful and emotionally upset [and was] physically shaking'', court documents allege.
She claims she was sacked without notice by her supervisor, Mr Bryan, on February 7.
Mr Smith was overseas and unavailable for comment yesterday. Optus declined to comment about the allegations and has not yet filed a defence.
''Given this is the subject of legal proceedings, we are only able to confirm that we will vigorously defend our position against what we believe to be unjustified claims,'' a spokeswoman said.
Mr Smith was appointed managing director of marketing in early March following a Singtel Optus restructure which brought all consumer-related functions under one umbrella.
The allegations were first filed with Fair Work Australia on February 20 and in the Federal Court two months later.