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Annie Hayes



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£7.5 million sex discrimination claimant goes back to court


Last December, Stephanie Villalba a former Merrill Lynch banker lost the biggest sexual discrimination claim in Britain, of £7.5 million.

The £300,000 a year banker who could earn upto a million annually claimed that she was the victim of persistent sexual discrimination and bullying.

On one occasion Ms Villalba claimed that she was made to sit in a stewardess’s seat and serve drinks to male executives on a flight in a corporate jet. She also claimed that former boss, Ausaf Abbas, bullied and humiliated her.

Raymundo Yu, senior vice-president at Merrill Lynch said, however, that he had had no choice but to remove Ms Villalba from her post after her position became untenable and resulted in a “disastrous financial situation.”

The hearing was told that Ms Villalba had lost the firm £560,000 a week; it also heard that she was reluctant to travel as required by the job.

Villalba won her claim of unfair dismissal but failed to win her case for sexual discrimination.

This week Villalba has announced that she is to appeal against the tribunal’s decision. Her partial victory gave her compensation of £55,000 but Villalba is thought to be facing an estimated seven-figure legal bill.

Official figures from the Employment Tribunals Service show that sex discrimination claims soared comparatively in 2004 with a 76% rise on the previous year.

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Annie Hayes


Read more from Annie Hayes