Sydney law firm Atanaskovic Hartnell hit with $185,000 penalty over workplace breaches

“From the liability judgment [of Judge Driver]it is difficult to discern on any basis upon which [the company] … instituted the cross-claims other than Mr Atanaskovic’s own personal animus towards Mrs Kelly,” Given said.

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In his earlier judgment, Driver said: “Mrs Kelly resigned because she could no longer bear the continuing denigration of her by Mr Atanaskovic.”

He said that in “former times, Mr Atanaskovic would be described as a person who does not suffer fools gladly. In modern parlance, he would be described as a bully. That is the description which I prefer.”

Emails tendered in court show Atanaskovic called Kelly a “maliciously intermeddling fool” and a “lazy incompetent”, among other insults.

In an email to a partner, copied to Kelly, Atanaskovic referred to Kelly and “menstrual based cycles”.

“The barb was directed at Mrs. Kelly as a woman,” Driver said, and “served to humiliate, bully, abuse, belittle and victimize” her.

Driver found Atanaskovic Hartnell Corporate Services, which employed Kelly between April 2004 and November 2016, breached “the employment contract by failing to protect Mrs. Kelly from the harm inflicted upon her by Mr. Atanaskovic”. “Further, I find that Mr. Atanaskovic is liable for rendering the workplace unsafe and for the harm he caused,” he said.

He ordered last year that Kelly be paid $30,000 in compensation “for the hurt, humiliation and distress that Mr Atanaskovic caused her”, a sum for which Atanaskovic and the company were jointly liable.

The company and Atanaskovic are seeking to appeal against last year’s decision.

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