A British businesswoman has received two million pounds, one of the world's biggest ever out-of-court payouts, for a claim of sexual harassment.
According to The Telegraph, Christina Rich, a financial adviser, was the highest-paid partner in PriceWaterhouseCoopers' office in Australia when she resigned, claiming that she had suffered more than a decade of bullying and harassment.
Rich earned over 400,000 pounds a year, but said her career was blighted by the "boys' club" culture at the Sydney-based firm.
She alleged that a partner felt her breasts and that her immediate boss repeatedly invited her to his hotel room during a conference in 1999 and adopted a practice of greeting her with a kiss, despite her objections.
Rich, 44, claimed about five million pounds from 20 PricewaterhouseCoopers' partners - including Tony Harrington, the chief executive, and the entire board, led by Paul Brasher, the chairman.
She alleged sexual harassment and discrimination, victimisation and bullying, which the company denied. The case was settled out of court.
"It's been a long process and I'm glad it's over," Mrs. Rich said outside the Federal Court in Australia on Friday.
In an earlier media statement she accepted that her former boss, Stuart Edwards, believed that kisses placed on her cheek were "platonic".
Rich's statement of claim said that in November 1999, when the partners were attending a conference in America, she found five handwritten notes from "Stuart" under the door of her Santa Monica Hotel room.
"Christina, if you would like to carry on that conversation we were having in the bar I am in room... Stuart," one allegedly said. Another said: "I've gone to bed but please wake me if you are still awake, Stuart."
Rich claimed that she recognized the handwriting as that of Mr Edwards.
Early in the lawsuit, Rich alleged that Edwards regularly kissed her on the cheek and when she objected he told her that he "knew what was best for [her]".
She also alleged that between 1999 and 2004, repeated sexual harassment went unchecked, her complaints about discrimination were not taken seriously, and that she was punished by being banned from carrying out her job.
In her statement, Rich said that at the Orient hotel in Sydney in November 2001, after a work function and in the presence of colleagues, a partner pushed her against a wall, forcibly undid her bra and felt her breasts.
In February 2002, during a discussion about her success with clients, another partner, Greg Lazarus, was alleged to have said: "That's because, Christina, they are talking to your breasts."
Rich was employed as a transfer pricing partner, which involves calculating profit sharing among company subsidiaries, and was considered one of the top five advisers in this field in Asia-Pacific.
PriceWaterhouseCoopers denied her allegations.
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