Colliers could face huge payout in sexual harassment claim

Jun 10th, 2016

Real estate giant Colliers International and a former assistant who claims a senior executive sexually harassed her have reportedly entered private mediation, a day after details of the woman's lawsuit came to light.

According to the lawsuit filed by Alexandra Marks on Tuesday, Colliers International Australia's chief financial officer Sean Unwin allegedly tried to force her face into his crotch, attempted to look up her skirt and undressed in front of her.

He also allegedly offered to arrange for Ms Marks to have sex with someone in the company's office and told her to "stop covering yourself up" when she wore a shawl to keep warm.

Workplace law experts told the Australian Financial Review Ms Marks could be awarded between $130,000 and $750,000 if her allegations are proven to be correct.

Patricia Ryan of The Workplace Employment Lawyers said she could envision a payout of up to $750,000.

"She is alleging repeated behaviour over a period of time and she said she made it clear to the person the conduct was unwelcome," Ms Ryan said.‚Äč

Ms Marks, who worked in the company's Sydney office from March 2014 until August last year, launched action against Colliers and Mr Unwin for sexual harassment in the Federal Circuit Court.

But it now appears the case may never make it to court, with the parties reportedly entering private mediation.

Emma Pritchard from Harmers Workplace Lawyers, acting for Ms Marks, has told the Australian Financial Review that the parties would aim to settle the case outside of court rather than returning in July.

Colliers and Mr Unwin and Ms Marks agreed on Thursday afternoon to go to private mediation, Ms Pritchard said.

A Colliers spokesman was unable to confirm if the mediation would proceed. He earlier said Colliers took the allegations seriously and would "vigorously defend them".

Mr Unwin declined to comment.

Colliers International, first established in Australia in 1976, has grown into a global real estate giant. It is listed on the Nasdaq in the United States with a market capitalisation of $US1.4 billion ($1.8 billion).

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