Eversheds was forced to carry out an internal investigation after litigation partner Stuart Dutson sent an email questioning the commitment of a female interviewee who had recently had a child.
Dutson’s email to his head of department Mark Davenport last June asked if there were guidelines available on how to “ask questions properly designed to identify her commitment, hours she is prepared to do, how she will balance work and a child”.
The email set-off an exchange between Dutson, Davenport and co-head of litigation Stewart Shackleton, who ultimately refused to participate in the woman’s interview as her position was “already compromised,” as reported by legal website Roll On Friday.
“I wish to have no part in it,” said Shackleton in the email exchange, adding that it was “improper to seek information on a candidate’s personal circumstances indirectly through investigations at her workplace”.
Eversheds, which has been praised in the past for its commitment to equality and diversity, spearheaded a campaign last August to ensure law firms gather data on applicants to help increase diversity (31 August 2009).
The firm’s equality and diversity policy states: “We recognise the need to balance personal and work life and that flexibility with regard to working patterns assists the broadest range of people. Our ‘Lifestyle’ policy actively encourages and supports this.”
An Eversheds spokesperson said: “This matter was raised in June 2009. We investigated and dealt with the matter swiftly and decisively through the appropriate line management and HR channels, prior to the candidates interview.
“As a result, we’re completely satisfied that there was no discrimination or prejudice to the candidate interviewed.
“Eversheds does not condone any kind of discrimination or behaviour which is counter to our extensive equality and diversity polices.”