Rivers Australia boss in court over “Pussy Galore” sexual harassment claim

The boss of retail chain Rivers Australia is embroiled in a legal dispute with a former employee who claims he sexually harassed her by trying to make her wear a cat-suit and calling her “Pussy Galore”.

Rachael Adamopoulos, who worked at Rivers for 14 years before resigning in 2007, has brought a claim in the Federal Court against Philip Goodman, the chairman and sole director of Rivers Australia.

Adamopoulos has brought a claim against the millionaire retailer, who heads up 150 stores across Australia, under the Australian Human Rights Commission Act and the case was back in court last week for a directions hearing.

Adamopoulos claims Goodman harassed her regularly, touching her buttocks on several occasions and making suggestive comments about her breasts, according to a report in Fairfax.

In 1999 she claims Goodman instructed her to wear a black cat-suit and appear as ”Pussy Galore” in an advertising campaign.

Adamopoulos says she refused to wear the cat-suit and claims Goodman then repeatedly referred to her as ”Pussy” after the incident.

Her claim of being asked to model accords with the strategy set out by Rivers’ former marketing director Peter Abbott, who previously told SmartCompany in 2008 that Rivers used employees as models in its campaign out of necessity, a strategy which proved to be highly effective.

“It is amazing how things that come out of necessity get adopted. We couldn’t afford models at Rivers. So I roped anyone in, including staff, my brother-in-law, even my children,” he said.

“When we did the first catalogue we got heaps of letters and phone calls from people in advertising telling us how unprofessional we were. But we got 10 times more from customers telling us they were fantastic and how great it was to see real people modelling.”

Abbott said he did not wish to comment on the current proceedings. 

Goodman is also alleged to have referred to Adamopoulos as ”Madam Lash”, ”the Boss”, ”the Queen” or ”his girl”.

On several occasions between 2002 and 2007 she claims Goodman said he loved her and wished he had married her.

Adamopoulos claims she suffered depression and post-traumatic stress as a result of the harassment and is seeking damages from Goodman and Rivers Australia.

A directions hearing is scheduled for August 2 but this is not the first time Goodman has faced the courts on sexual harassment charges.

Back in 2011 a former employee Sallyanne Robinson claimed Goodman sexually harassed her by forcing her to model underwear in his office and secretly photograph competitors’ goods.

According to reports at the time in the Daily Telegraph, Robinson was employed at Rivers’ head office in the Melbourne suburb of Hawthorn from September 2009 to July 2010.

The dispute is expected to proceed to trial later this year.

SmartCompany contacted Rivers Australia and Adamopoulos’ lawyers, Clark Toop and Taylor, for comment but neither responded prior to publication.

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