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Female banker wins discrimination case after witch’s hat left on desk by drunk male colleagues

Stacey Macken’s boss repeatedly brushed aside questions with ‘not now, Stacey’ comment which judges said was ‘rude and dismissive’

Ben Chapman
Thursday 12 September 2019 15:37 BST
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Over a four-year period Ms Macken received hundreds of thousands of pounds less in bonuses than a male colleague in a similar role
Over a four-year period Ms Macken received hundreds of thousands of pounds less in bonuses than a male colleague in a similar role (Facebook)

A high-flying banker whose boss repeatedly brushed her comments aside by saying “not now Stacey” has won a discrimination case in London after a three-year legal battle.

Stacey Macken, a London-based broker at French bank BNP Paribas, was consistently paid less than men who worked in similar roles to her own and once found a witch’s hat placed on her desk by drunk male colleagues at the bank, which was accused of having a “laddish” culture.

An employment tribunal found that she had suffered discrimination. “Leaving a witch’s hat on a female employee’s desk, in a predominantly male working environment, was an inherently sexist act,” Judge James Tayler said in a ruling published on Tuesday.

The episode “potentially reflects on the nature of the working environment” at BNP “and the approach that was taken to women”, Mr Tayler added.

The tribunal did not accept the evidence of Ms Macken’s boss that his “not now, Stacey” comment was said “only occasionally as a way of explaining that he was busy”.

Instead, judges found that the comment was “rude and dismissive” of Ms Macken.

Ms Macken joined BNP from Deutsche Bank on a salary of £120,000 in 2013 but later found out that a male colleague with the same job title and similar responsibilities was paid £160,000.

Over a four-year period Ms Macken received hundreds of thousands of pounds less in bonuses than the colleague. The tribunal said it had not been persuaded that gender was not a factor in this pay discrepancy. The bank claimed that Ms Macken had been hired as a “junior” and that her male colleague was her senior.

Ms Macken is seeking £4m in damages from BNP, but the tribunal has yet to decide what award will be granted.

Sexual discrimination and harassment cases at large companies have increasingly been in the spotlight in the wake of the #MeToo movement. A number of firms have been accused of pressuring staff who accuse colleagues of misconduct into silence by getting them to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).

Meanwhile those who wish to bring an employment claim for discrimination can be put off by the prohibitive cost of funding legal action, and the relatively low potential payouts.

Awards for most employment cases, such as those for unfair dismissal, are capped at £86,444, or 52 weeks gross salary – whichever is the lower. However, the employee may be awarded more if they can prove that they were the victim of discrimination, rather than simply unfair dismissal.

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