Equality watchdog, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), is backing an attempt by a former trader to overturn a tribunal ruling that found she did not suffer sex discrimination, to the tune of £1.35 million, when she was prevented from returning to her old job following a period of maternity leave.
Reported by The Times, Katharina Tofeji, a senior sales dealer who formerly worked for the investment bank BNP Paribas, took home £70,000 a year and claimed that she was placed in a vulnerable position and at a disadvantage because all her clients had been reassigned when she returned from maternity leave and a male colleague had been assigned permanently to her team.
According to the report, Tofeji claims that she was exposed to a culture of sexism at the bank, where colleagues made negative comments and one placed a bet on how long she would last back at work. And according to the EOC there were no immediate plans by the bank to return the 29 clients she had successfully built up. She was also refused flexible working hours (she wanted a four day week).
Despite the claims, an employment tribunal ruled in June this year that she was not wrongfully dismissed, nor treated less favourably than male colleagues.
Her appeal will argue that the tribunal decision wrongly compared her treatment with how she would have been treated as a man on leave for a similar period of time.
Jenny Watson, who chairs the EOC, said: “We know from our research that many women experience discrimination upon return from maternity leave and suffer considerable stress and hardship as a result. Miss Tofeji’s case provides yet another reminder of how easily the thin veneer of equality can crack when working women start a family.”
HR Zone recently reported on the plight of women returning to work following maternity leave.