A perverted boss who exploited teenage girls in their first ever job at a major coffee chain left them fearful of returning to work after years of abuse.
Mark Edward Whitelock, 52, from the Melbourne suburb of Mill Park, owned and operated two Hudsons Coffee franchises where he subjected the young girls to sexual harassment and abuse for six years.
The once successful cafes operated out of two major hospitals in Melbourne’s north-eastern suburbs.
On Thursday, the father of tennis pro Marcus Whitelock was convicted of two charges of sexual harassment in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court and fined $40,000 after his young victims bravely reported him to WorkSafe Victoria.
He had pleaded guilty to two counts under the Occupational Safety and Health Act for failing to keep the workplace safe by sexually harassing employees between April 2014 and December 2020.
Whitelock’s companies were fined $250,000 – a penalty that will never be paid because they have now been placed into receivership.
The court heard Whitelock had been ruthless because of his years of offending and after he was caught by investigators he offered a “toned down” version of his behavior to a coroner.
Mark Edward Whitelock (pictured) abused teenage girls as part of his employment at Hudsons Coffee
Whitelock (pictured right, with a young woman who is said not to be one of his victims) enjoyed touching, humiliating and violating his young female workers
Judge Belinda Franjic convicted Whitelock of abusing his vulnerable victims who had nowhere to turn.
The court heard his victims included teenage sisters who regularly endured indecent questioning, groping and sexual humiliation.
“Did you fuck anyone over the weekend?” He would ask the 16-year-old who had her first job.
“He asked her about sexual acts and the number of sexual partners she had had. “On two occasions he grabbed her groin and made unnecessary physical contact with her by thrusting his hips into her and touching her body,” Ms Franjic told the court.
“He constantly slapped her bottom and grabbed her breasts.” She said Mr Whitelock would normally behave this way in front of male employees and that he encouraged male employees to behave similarly.
The court heard her 17-year-old sister suffered almost identical abuse and sexual assault and was slapped on the bottom “every shift”.
Another 16-year-old in her first job told investigators that Whitelock claimed she “looked like a prostitute” and once gave her painkillers to take in his car.
“So he could, quote, ‘touch her ass,'” Ms. Franjic said.
Another teen said he pushed her head into his groin as she leaned over and made comments about oral sex.
Whitelock’s other victims all told similar horror stories through their boss.
The court heard that Whitelock’s victims included teenage sisters who regularly endured indecent questioning, groping and sexual humiliation
Whitelock is pictured in one of his Hudsons Coffee franchises sexually harassing teenage workers
In a series of powerful victim impact statements read to the court, the consequences of Whitelock’s abhorrent behavior were laid bare.
“I often had panic attacks before or during shifts. “I constantly felt unsafe, uneasy, nervous, belittled and often hurt just by (Whitelock)’s presence,” one victim explained.
“I was young and didn’t know what to expect from a boss,” said another. “When the inappropriate behavior began, I understood that this was normal and acceptable behavior from an employer.”
Another victim said Whitelock’s abuse caused her lifelong problems with men and trust.
“You stole my innocence. “Your crime of foul language and vile acts paved the way for how I have allowed men in my life to behave towards me… They have destroyed my life,” she said.
“You took things away that I can never get back.” The damage you caused has shaped my entire life.”
The court heard Whitelock had made it almost impossible for the girls to report his crime.
Mark Edward Whitelock tried to use his work with children as a mitigating factor in his case
“In situations where there was no human resources manager on site for employees to speak to at any time, it was incumbent on companies to inform employees how to report violations to the company in a way that did not involve Mr. Whitelock.” said Mrs. Franjic.
“The companies’ failure to adequately inform their employees allowed Mr. Whitelock’s egregious behavior to continue unabated.”
The court heard that Whitelock claimed the decline of his “successful business” was due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
He also used his previous “good character” to avoid conviction.
The court noted that Whitelock had no criminal record and had previously worked as head of fundraising at Eltham College.
He also has extensive experience as a football coach, including with children in the AFL’s Auskick program.
He is now separated from his wife and has started a new career as a carer for the disabled, which will likely end with the announcement of his conviction.