By lunchtime today, everyone in corporate Australia will know that the widely regarded Mark McInnes has resigned in disgrace. The former CEO of David Jones has admitted he acted inappropriately towards a staff member in question in a manner “unbecoming of the high standard of a chief executive officer”.

By this afternoon we will probably know exactly what he did. The SMH already has a large prompt on their news page urging people to send in tips.

And then the old debates will begin. Did his punishment fit the crime? Exactly how serious was his “inappropriate” behavior?

And then the big one: Did he really have to resign? Well, of course he did. But that is not going to stop the usual speculation in corporate circles about how serious a matter was it really.

In fact, it has already begun. The Australian‘s lead story says that some in corporate Australia say the alleged offense “wasn’t even a kiss” but to protect the brand, the decision was made to “come clean” at the start. So there you have it. In some corporate circles it has to be a kiss — or more — to be deemed inappropriate.

And then the clanger. The Australian reports that the complainant in the McInnes case went to Sydney plaintiff law firm Harmers, which also handled Christina Rich’s case against PWC in which she received a big settlement. That is sure to get the tongues wagging. Maybe, some will say, she is just a gold digger who saw an opportunity and got out her spade.

But why do we jump to that conclusion first when we know that it is common for woman around the country to go to work to do a good job and be faced with the shocking situation of a boss or manager acting in a way that makes her feel extremely uncomfortable?

We still don’t know what McInnes did. But who cares. He runs a company that sells to high-end female consumers. He heads up a mainly female workforce. And as he admits, he did the wrong thing not once but twice.

Now the debate should not centre on whether the punishment fits the crime. This should serve as a warning: Women have the right to go to work and not be faced with any “inappropriate” behaviour from bosses, managers or anyone else for that matter.

Peter Fray

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