A prominent lawyer has taken action in the Australian Human Rights Commission over allegations she was subjected to a barrage of inappropriate and sexually suggestive comments by a real estate agent appointed to sell her Port Melbourne home.
The commercial barrister, who Fairfax has chosen not to name, also alleges that a senior figure with real estate agent, Marshall White, offered her “the deal of the century” on a property listed with the firm in an attempt to resolve the dispute and avoid litigation.
Last week, lawyers representing the woman filed a complaint with Australian Human Rights Commission, which included allegations of unlawful conduct and breaches of the Sex Discrimination Act.
The woman claims a Marshall White agent made a string of inappropriate comments within days of listing her Esplanade West home for sale in August 2014.
At a meeting with the woman on August 29, the agent allegedly said: “I was thinking of you in the shower this morning,” according to the complaint.
When she returned from a holiday in the US on September 23, the agent allegedly said: “So how many concubines did you get in Vegas?” You’d have a few there wouldn’t you?…I would love to go to Vegas with you.”
The woman claims she responded by saying ” I don’t think your partner would approve of that”.
On September 30, 2014, the Marshall White agent commented on the woman’s attire, allegedly saying: “That’s a nice sparkly top you are wearing, not that I’m looking at your boobs”.
“(He) proceeded to repeatedly stare at [her] chest during the 45-minute meeting which followed, offering to drive [her] home at the end of the meeting,” it is alleged in the complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission.
On another occasion, the agent allegedly asked the woman what she ate during a telephone call on October 17.
“There is never any food in your fridge. I look in all my client’s fridges and there is never any food in yours,” he is alleged to have said, according to a complaint letter.
Outside a property in South Melbourne, the agent allegedly greeted the woman by saying “come on, give me a kiss”.
When her property passed in at auction on October 24, the woman flagged her concerns about her agent’s conduct with a director at Marshall White’s office in Albert Park.
The agent, who holds a pilot license, attempted to placate the woman on October 29, allegedly saying according to legal documents: “I think you are great. I just want to put this past us and maybe go out for a drink, or dinner or go flying. I just want to see you smile again”..
The woman demanded a meeting with a senior figure at Marshall White’s Armadale office, where she expressed concerns about her agent’s “inept, incompetent and inappropriate behaviour”.
When her property eventually sold in December 2014, Marshall White agreed to waive its commission on the deal, cancelled an outstanding advertising debt and arranged for the agent to cease all contact with the woman.
But at a meeting on February 2015, a Marshall White director arranged for her to find an investment property that would be “the deal of the century”, according to documents.
“(The director) told [her] that he had access to all the new listings (including off-market sales) and that he would be delighted to find her a suitable investment under $1.5 million in a blue-chip location with good prospects of capital growth,” the complaint letter states.
The director allegedly recommended a property in Hawthorn and, according to documents, conceded to the woman that “I’m telling you as a friend not an agent, we’ve stuffed it and overquoted the property”.
According to the court documents, the director said the vender needed to sell and if she bid he would be able to convince the vendor to sell on the day.
But about two hours after the auction, the property on Haines Street was sold to another buyer at a price below the reserve.
According to documents obtained by Fairfax Media, Marshall White have obfuscated on requests by the woman’s lawyers to mediate the protracted dispute, which is headed for the Federal Court if the matter is unable to be resolved by Australian Human Rights Commission.
The woman is expected to seek significant exemplary damages over the trauma and embarrassment that was allegedly caused by Marshall White and its agent.
Marshall White representatives declined to make any comment to Fairfax Media.
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