A former banker at a giant Russian bank could be awarded millions after she won her Employment Tribunal claims for – among other things – sexual harassment, gender-related harassment and victimization.
Ms Svetlana Lokhova worked in the London office of Russian firm Sberbank until she resigned, claiming that she had been subjected to bullying and sexual harassment in the workplace. She subsequently instructed employment law solicitors and submitted claims in the employment tribunal for constructive dismissal, gender-related harassment, sex discrimination, sexual harassment and victimization.
The claim came before the Central London Employment Tribunal last month, with both Ms Lokhova and other former and current employees of the bank giving evidence. Ms Lokhova, who earned a six-figure salary at the bank, claimed that she had endured a lengthy campaign of bullying and harassment in the workplace, including being called “crazy”, “mental” and “a major car crash”. She stated that David Longmuir, her former line manager at the bank, sent insulting emails regarding her but also made comments outside of her presence that were “offensive and derogatory in nature”, and that the ‘male-dominated’ equity sales desk was a hostile environment for her. Further to this, on the day that she resigned a senior analyst at the bank sent an email to a colleague which stated that Ms Lokhova should visit Nigeria as he “knew a few tribe leaders in Nigeria… proper alpha male… she needs to relax after the stressful period of the past months [and] these guys would help”. Mr Longmuir, who was cross-examined as a witness, reportedly admitted that describing Ms Lokhova as a “cokehead” was both untrue and defamatory.
The Employment Tribunal ruled in Ms Lokhova’s favour in her her claims for gender-related harassment and victimization, holding that – as well as the above conduct – the failure of the head of the London office to take any action to protect Ms Lokhova or to discipline her tormentors was “lamentable [and] caused detriment to the claimant and amounts in our view to victimization”. The Tribunal also held that comments made to her “clearly amount to gender-related harassment [and] Mr Longmuir had the purpose of creating an adverse environment for her”. A remedies hearing is due to be held in the future to determine compensation in the case – media outlets report that the case is worth “millions”.
A spokesman for Sberbank stated after the judgment was released: “We cannot comment further on the specifics of the judgment, which we are reviewing closely with our legal team, but we are committed to take on board any lessons to be learned.”
Ms Lokhova appears not to have commented as yet on the judgment.
Chris Hadrill, an employment solicitor at Redmans (a firm unconnected with the case) commented: “This case shows that businesses must be careful to prevent a culture of bullying and harassment in the workplace – a failure to do so can lead to expensive and time-consuming employment tribunal claims. Further, businesses must take action if a complaint relating to such bullying and harassment is made.”
Redmans Solicitors are unfair dismissal solicitors and offer employment law advice to employers and employees