Female banker nicknamed 'crazy Miss Cokehead' by male colleagues awarded £3m payout by employment tribunal

Tribunal found that Svetlana Lokhova had endured a 'disgraceful' campaign

Rose Troup Buchanan
Wednesday 08 April 2015 16:03
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Sberbank offices in London
Sberbank offices in London

A female banker nicknamed “crazy Miss Cokehead” during an unfounded sexist smear campaign by co-workers has been awarded £3.2million after being driven to mental collapse.

Svetlana Lokhova, 33, endured a “disgraceful” campaign of sexual harassment, victimisation and discrimination amounting to constructive dismissal, an employment tribunal found.

The tribunal, ruling in October last year, found in her favour after hearing how the Cambridge History graduate suffered a litany of personal attacks and insinuations over the course of working for Sberbank CIB.

In the hearing last year, the court heard how male colleagues referred to her as “mad Svetlana,” adding that she was “chemically dependent” and a “major car crash”.

The court heard how one colleague reportedly told Ms Lokhova, the only woman in her team, she was hired “because of her t***”.

Yesterday, the Central London Employment Tribunal awarded her £3.14m for lost earnings, £44,000 for hurt feelings and £15,000 in aggravated damaged.

The tribunal said it had increased its payment in light of the “deliberate” attempt to bully Ms Lokhova by presenting as evidence she was a drug user.

The 33-year-old took a drug test, which came back negative, during the tribunal liability hearing in order to establish the falsity of the accusation.

"That allegation is completely without foundation and should never have been put to her in cross examination at the liability hearing,” the court ruled.

"It was a deliberate, planned and unnecessary misuse of these proceedings, designed to put pressure on her and cause damage to her given that it was no doubt widely publicised."

In evidence last year, Ms Lokhova told the tribunal: “My manager and colleagues described me in sexist terms as “Miss Cokehead”, “bitch”… and “Miss Dodgy Septum” in communications made to senior people and clients. My job was made impossible.

“This persistent unlawful treatment has had a seriously detrimental effect on my health, with severe and long-term consequences.”

Ms Lokhova, whose annual salary and bonuses as an equity saleswoman had been estimated at £750,000, went on to say that she was “completely broken” by events at the bank, adding that she could “never return to financial services again”.

“Everybody knows everybody’s business in banking and people believe there is no smoke without fire. My reputation has been shredded,” she added.

Ms Lokhova joined the bank in 2008 on a salary of £80,000, quickly increasing her salary - but claimed her position became difficult after blowing the whistle on a colleague accused of insider trading. The individual was later dismissed from the bank.

The tribunal found that despite Ms Lokhova’s “resilient” personality, her treatment at the hands of her superiors had triggered “chronic and long-term symptoms” of mental breakdown.

They court agreed Ms Lokhova, daughter of a Russian shipping broker, would “never work in financial services again, on the basis of the medical evidence."

Speaking yesterday, the former banker said the case had been a “long difficult and draining process”.

“But more than three years after my ordeal began, I have found the one thing I was seeking – justice,” she added in a statement to the Evening Standard.

A Sberbank spokesperson told the Daily Mail: “We are committed to take on board any lessons to be learned.”

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