Female banker wins gender discrimination case

A female city banker has won her case for gender discrimination, harassment and unequal pay. Ms Macken sued the London office of the French bank BNP Paribas for £4m claiming she was paid hundreds of thousands of pounds less than a male colleague.

The financial product manager claimed she was paid considerably less than her male colleague who had the same job title. When Ms Macken complained to her employer, she became the victim of a drunken prank that saw a witch’s hat left on her desk.

Male counterpart paid more

Before being headhunted by BNP Paribas, Ms Macken was employed by Deutsche Bank for eight years at vice-president level until she was made redundant. Despite her experience and senior status, Ms Macken was recruited by BNP Paribas as a junior on an annual salary of £120,000.

However, months later a male colleague was hired with the same job title but paid £160,000. The same male colleague earned around £237,000 in bonuses over five years. Seven times more than the combined £33,000 offered to Ms Macken.

Inappropriate behaviour

Within only months of joining the firm, Ms Macken claimed she was the victim of sexist behaviour by one of her bosses, Mr Pinnock. The employment tribunal heard that Ms Macken was often dismissed rudely by her boss who would respond to her questions with, “not now Stacey”. This phrase was used so regularly that colleagues also began to use the phrase.

Another boss would subject Ms Macken to crude and inappropriate stories about the sexual fantasies of his friends. This same boss would answer the phone to friends in the office by saying “hey f*ckface” and “hey sexy”. When male colleagues left a black Halloween witch’s hat on her desk as a drunken prank shortly after she joined the bank in 2013, Ms Macken told colleagues she felt uncomfortable around her male colleagues.

Communication breakdown

The tribunal was told that communication eventually broke down between Ms Macken and the senior management after she filed a grievance to BNP Paribas regarding her pay. She claimed that she was subjected to aggressive performance reviews.

In 2017, Ms Macken didn’t receive a bonus, with her bosses noting, “Stacey’s inability to accept constructive feedback … has led to a cascade of comments, accusations and recriminations which has led to the breakdown of her relationship with the management of the bank.”

Ms Macken’s male colleague was awarded £70,000 in bonuses that same year.

Employment tribunal ruling

The employment tribunal judge upheld Ms Macken’s complaints regarding equal pay and discrimination. The tribunal found that there had been a significant deterioration in her relationship with the firm’s management. This concluded in a grievance hearing that the tribunal ruled was: “a failure to get to grips with the real complaint during the grievance process”.

The judgement said: “Far too little regard was given to the fact that the claimant and comparator 1 [her better-paid male counterpart] had exactly the same job descriptions. The evidence given by Mr Pihan and Mr Pinnock was taken at face value without being challenged to any significant extent. Other, potential witnesses who had not been involved in setting the pay but could objectively comment on the respective job roles were not interviewed.

“We consider that the grievance process was really designed to reject the claimant’s complaint. No proper and rigorous investigation of why there was a differential in pay was conducted. We consider that was, at least in part, because the claimant had raised allegations of inequality of pay and bonus. There was a determination to defend the respondent against the allegations rather than investigate them properly. This was victimisation.”

However, Ms Macken’s claims of harassment were dismissed. It is not known how much she will receive in compensation from her employer. Ms Macken continues to be employed by BNP Paribas.

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