A Woolworths manager at the centre of a $1.3 million sexual harassment suit has admitted he ''grabbed'' a female colleague but denied assaulting her.
Steven Clark, a former manager at Woolworths Blacktown, told the Federal Circuit Court in Sydney on Friday that former night duty manager Alysha Wilkie was distracted by another colleague so he seized her arm and pulled her into his office in May 2011 to talk to her.
The incident was recorded on closed-circuit TV cameras.
Steven Clark is pictured allegedly grabbing Alysha Wilkie. Photo: Screen grab
Mrs Wilkie's barrister, Paul Blacket, SC, asked Mr Clark why it had been necessary to grab her arm and take her into the manager's office.
''To have a good conversation. She was too busy talking to [another worker] at the time,'' Mr Clark said.
''The physical handling of women in the workplace isn't something a manager should undertake,'' Mr Blacket said.
Steven Clark allegedly grabs his employee. Photo: Screen grab
''Yeah, I'd agree with that,'' Mr Clark said.
Mrs Wilkie, 34, alleges Mr Clark assaulted her inside the office by holding her in a tight grip and running his hand up and down her forearm.
Mr Clark said he shook her hand ''gently''.
Claim: Alysha Wilkie. Photo: Anthony Johnson
There is no footage from inside the office but photos of bruises on Mrs Wilkie's arm days after the alleged assault have been tendered in court.
Mrs Wilkie is suing Woolworths under the Human Rights Commission Act, claiming she developed post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety as a result of alleged harassment by Mr Clark between February and May 2011, and that she attempted suicide in September 2012.
The mother of three told the court this week that she dyed her hair from blonde to brown and gained weight after the alleged incidents because she did not want anyone ''to touch me or look at me again''.
Bruises on Mrs Wilkie's arm days after the alleged assault. Photo: Supplied
She claimed Mr Clark made a series of lewd comments such as ''been keeping your husband up late?'' and asking if she had ''thrown her leg over the wrong way'' when she was late to work.
Mr Clark denied he made the comments. ''I think I said, 'did you roll back in bed and go to sleep?''' he told the court.
''Why did you need to trespass into the bedroom of the employee and ask questions [about her sleeping habits]?'' Mr Blacket asked. ''I didn't have to,'' Mr Clark said. ''I was trying to make her feel more comfortable.'' The alternative would have been to reprimand her for being late.
Accused: Steven Clark. Photo: Anthony Johnson
Mr Clark admitted he also texted Mrs Wilkie the words ''you're soft'' while she was working on the night shift, but he said this was a reference to sales figures.
Mr Clark, who is manager of a ''similar-sized'' Woolworths said no disciplinary action had been taken against him.
Mrs Wilkie stopped work in October 2011.
Before she changed her hair colour: Alysha Wilkie. Photo: Supplied
She is on workers' compensation and Woolworths is paying her medical bills.
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