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City Worker Wins £270k For Constructive Unfair Dismissal and Sexual Harassment

City Worker Wins £270k For Constructive Unfair Dismissal and Sexual Harassment

sex discrimination compensation from employers

A City employee who says her boss sexually harassed her on a work trip has been given a record payout of £270,000 by her employers to settle a claim of discrimination.

Investment associate Nathalie Abildgaard alleged that Frederic Michel-Verdier, an executive director at IFM Investors, repeatedly invited her back to his hotel room after a work celebration in Spain in 2019. Following the alleged incident, the analyst resigned and brought legal claims against her employer for sexual harassment, constructive dismissal, and victimisation. Mr. Michel-Verdier, who is still employed by IFM, denies the allegations.

The case, which was initially heard at the Central London Employment Tribunal in January, was unusual as an example of a sexual harassment case against a City employer reaching a hearing. IFM Investors reached the settlement with investment associate Nathalie Abildgaard shortly before a further legal hearing of the case was scheduled, with Ms. Abildgaard retaining the right to speak about the incident.

Speaking following the settlement, Ms. Abildgaard underlined the unfair power balance between employees who make claims of harassment and their employers, noting that her own case had cost her more than £100,000 of her own money in legal fees. The former analyst has since set up a charity – Legal Aid Business Diversity – to provide money for other workers who suffer workplace discrimination and who want to take legal action.

Unfair dismissal and harassment claims heard in CET

IFM was taken to the Central Employment Tribunal by their former employee on claims of constructive dismissal and sexual harassment. The claims are founded on the basis that IFM allegedly failed to take reasonable steps to stop Mr. Michel-Verdier from carrying out acts of harassment and thus failed to reasonably protect their employee, Ms. Abildgaard, from harassment in the workplace. In addition, it was claimed that IFM failed to respond appropriately after their employee complained of the alleged incident of sexual harassment.

After the complaint was made, the employer decided not to suspend or fire Mr. Michel-Verdier, instead taking action by cutting his bonus for the year and banning him from drinking at work events for twelve months.

Ms. Abildgaard subsequently resigned and sought medical treatment for stress and anxiety caused by the incident. She also brought a claim of victimisation, on the basis of allegations that her former employer made an “unjustified and aggressive threat to approach her new employer”.

Employee refuses NDA to ‘raise awareness’ of workplace harassment

Ms Abildgaard, who did not sign a confidentiality clause as part of the settlement – a practice which some say has become a routine part of settlements in cases of workplace sexual harassment – said it was important for her that she was not gagged.

“I want to raise public awareness about the challenges people face when they’ve suffered workplace harassment,” she said.

According to research from the TUC, more than half of all woman and nearly 2 in 3 women aged 18-24 have experienced sexual harassment at work.

The misuse of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) by employers to silence complaints of workplace sexual harassment has come under fire, with legal experts warning that the contracts are being used to prevent justice and conceal crimes in the name of protecting employers’ reputations. The Solicitors Regulation Authority has warned lawyers that “while NDAs can be legitimate, they must not prevent anyone from notifying …regulators or law enforcement agencies, of conduct which might otherwise be reportable.”

By law, non-disclosure agreements can only be used by employers when an employee has received independent legal advice. Earlier this year, former solicitor general Vera Baird QC urged for stricter legislation on employer use of NDAs to be introduced, with government ministers terming the current misuse of the agreements “clearly unacceptable.”

Contact our employment law solicitors for expert advice

If you think you have been the subject of discrimination at work, or if you have received a claim against you for discrimination, then call us today on 03456 381381, or email your details to employment@ibblaw.co.uk.