Alysha Wilkie: Claims of assault. Photo: Anthony Johnson
A woman who claims she was sexually harassed by her former boss at a Sydney Woolworths is suing the company for $1.3 million, claiming she developed post-traumatic stress disorder and attempted suicide as a result of his behaviour.
Alysha Wilkie, a former night duty manager at Woolworths Blacktown, claims the store's former manager, Steven Clark, harassed her between February and May 2011, including by asking suggestive questions such as ''been keeping your husband up late?'' and ''leering'' at her bottom.
The intimidating behaviour, which allegedly also included asking if Mrs Wilkie had ''thrown her leg over the wrong way'' when she was late to work one day, is said to have culminated in the then 31-year-old being dragged by Mr Clark into his office and assaulted.
Steven Clark: Promoted. Photo: Anthony Johnson
''He used force to turn me around so I was facing him. The distance separating us was a few centimetres,'' Mrs Wilkie, now 34, says in documents filed in the Federal Circuit Court. ''He rubbed his hand up and down my entire forearm. I was panicking. I felt physically sick.'' Mr Clark ''continued to tighten'' his grip on her so she could not leave, according to the documents. Woolworths and Mr Clark deny all of the allegations.
Photos taken by Mrs Wilkie and tendered in court on Wednesday show she had bruising on her left arm days after the alleged incident, which was partly captured by closed-circuit television cameras.
The footage, played in court, shows Mr Clark approaching Mrs Wilkie from behind and pulling her into a room off a corridor. There were no cameras inside the office to record what happened next.
Mrs Wilkie lodged a sexual harassment complaint in September 2012 in the Human Rights Commission. The parties have already attended compulsory mediation.
The mother of three stopped work in October 2011 and has been diagnosed as having post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety, for which she takes antidepressants and sees a psychiatrist about once a month.
Part of her $1.3 million damages bill is for the distress, humiliation and aggravation she claims was a consequence of Woolworths' handling of her complaint. Mrs Wilkie claims that when she told a HR manager about the alleged incident, the manager said: ''Well, my wife bruises like a peach. She can pick up a pencil and get a bruise.''
Mr Clark, who was told not to come into the Blacktown store, has since been promoted.
Mrs Wilkie, who is re-training as a nurse, says in court documents the situation was ''rock bottom'' for her. ''I had effectively lost my job, my social activities, the ability to see my friends, the ability to leave the house and the ability to relax.''