Banker Awarded £3.1m for Sex Discrimination and Harassment
Earlier this week banker Svetlana Lokhova was awarded over £3.1m compensation for sex discrimination, victimisation and harassment. Miss Lokhova suffered a campaign of bullying and harassment at the hands of her male colleagues at Sberbank CIB which led to psychiatric illness and her never being able to work in the financial services industry again.
Miss Lokhova, a Cambridge graduate working in an otherwise all male team and earning in excess of £750,000 per annum, was nicknamed “Crazy Miss Cokehead”, "Miss Dodgy Septum", accused of being "chemically dependent" and told her she had only been hired "because of her t***". The comments were made over a period of months to both colleagues and clients.
The compensation award is reported to comprise £3.14 for lost earnings, £44,000 for injury to feelings and £15,000 for aggravated damages.
This case demonstrates just how serious the consequences of unlawful discrimination can be. Miss Lokhova was a resilient person, with a successful career ahead of her, whose treatment at the hands of her male colleagues led to a serious mental breakdown and her never being able to work in financial services again. The reported award of £44,000 for injury to feeling exceeds the normal maximum award (the top award for serious campaigns of harassment is in the region of £33,000) and awards in excess of this are only made in the most serious of cases. For the employer, besides the obvious financial consequences, there is the damage to its reputation.
A particularly interesting aspect of this case is the award of £15,000 aggravated damages. These awards can be made in discrimination cases where the employer’s behaviour has aggravated the claimant's injury, for example by acting in an insulting or oppressive manner. This can include conduct during the course of defending a discrimination claim, and not just conduct during the employment relationship. The tribunal made the award in this case after the employer falsely accused Miss Lokhova of being a drug addict during cross-examination in the tribunal proceedings. She was so distressed by the accusation that she took a drug test to prove it untrue. The employment tribunal considered the employer’s accusation was a deliberate attempt to bully her, was completely without foundation and should never have been put to her during cross-examination. It was a deliberate misuse of the proceedings designed to put pressure on her and damage her reputation in view of the publicity the case would receive.
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