A former banker at the London office of a major Russian bank has won significant damages at an Employment Tribunal following ongoing discrimination and harassment in her role.
Svetlana Lokhova worked for Sberbank CIB (UK) Ltd until she resigned claiming constructive dismissal in 2012.
Ms Lokhova, a Cambridge graduate, joined the bank in 2008. She claimed that her position became difficult after she whistle blew on a colleague for insider trading, after which her co-workers started referring to her as “crazy Miss Cokehead”, “mad Svetlana” and “a major car crash”, amongst many other slurs.
The Employment Tribunal ruled on the case in October last year. It determined that following the whistleblowing Ms Lokhova endured a “disgraceful” campaign of sexual harassment, victimisation and discrimination that ultimately gave her no choice but to resign. This week the Tribunal awarded her £3.2 million in compensation for lost earnings, hurt feelings and aggravated damages.
Ms Lokhova was awarded the aggravated damages as the Tribunal ruled that Sberbank’s lawyers had attempted to bully her during the hearing by cross-examining her on her alleged drug use, allegations that were proven to be untrue. The Tribunal went on to state that this was a “deliberate, planned and unnecessary misuse of the proceedings, designed to put pressure on (Ms. Lokhova) and cause damage to her”.
The Tribunal was also shocked to find that Ms Lokhova’s line manager, David Longmuir, was paid $250,000 to leave Sberbank in a compromise agreement after he made a series of “offensive, derogatory […] and personal” comments about Ms Lokhova, including in emails to clients. Ms Lokhova stated that this was “unacceptable” and thus supported her claim for compensation. The Employment Tribunal agreed, and determined that Sberbank should have instead dismissed Mr Longmuir for gross misconduct.
Ms Lokhova commented afterwards: “The case has been a long, difficult and draining process which has all but taken over my life and those of people close to me. But more than three years after my ordeal began, I have found the one thing I was seeking — justice. No one should be subjected to the treatment and malicious slurs which were directed at me at Sberbank.”
Sberbank has not issued an apology to Ms Lokhova. However the bank has instead provided an expensive and embarrassing example of what happens when management turns a blind eye to discrimination, harassment and victimisation within its own organisation.