In a high-profile case at the London Employment Tribunal, a female banker successfully established that she was the subject of sex discrimination, unequal pay and victimisation by her employer, BNP Paribas.
The claimant, Stacey Macken, who joined the company in 2012, was earning an annual salary of £120,000, however it transpired that her male colleague was earning £160,000 per annum.
Whilst some of the facts and issues were complex, the tribunal neatly summarised it as a case where a female worker alleged that a male colleague was employed in the same job and carrying out the same work, was being paid more than her.
BNP Paribas argued that firms in the banking sector worked to a different set of rules when it came to salary and equal pay. In rebutting this argument, the tribunal advised that if employers hold such an attitude then they have to accept that they are more likely to be exposed to claims being made against them.
Whilst it is possible for an employer to justify a difference in pay citing factors other than sex, the tribunal found it was clear that gender played some role. As a guiding note to employers, the tribunal declared that the more transparent and bias free the evaluation of salary was, the more likely it would provide equal pay than a system which relied heavily on managerial discretion.
In addition to the pay dispute, Ms Macken alleged that she had been belittled by her colleagues. She cited a running joke in the office that whenever she asked questions, her male colleagues would respond “not now Stacey”. In one of the more bizarre alleged incidents, Ms Macken arrived at work one morning to find a witch’s hat on her desk.
The tribunal declared that two of Ms Macken’s male colleagues subjected her to an extended period of hostility because of her complaints. Further, the tribunal found that those tasked with investigating her complaints “shut them down” which exacerbated the issues.
The tribunal will reconvene in the near future to determine the amount of compensation which will be awarded to Ms Macken. However, given the clear findings of the tribunal and the length of time Ms Macken was underpaid, the award against the company is likely to be substantial. Further, as Ms Macken has established victimisation and discrimination, she will not be subject to any cap on her compensation award as is the case with unfair dismissal claims.
Our specialist employment and discrimination solicitors are experienced in advising and representing employees in similar situations to this. Call us now on 01616 966 229.