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The managing partner of Follett Stock has been accused of bullying a female lawyer, an employment tribunal has heard.
According to reports in the national press, Chris Lingard is accused of sacking solicitor Kate Baker from the firm because of her gender after she started a relationship.
Baker has filed claims of sexual harassment, sexual discrimination and unfair dismissal. In her statement to Exeter tribunal judge Christopher Carstairs, Baker, who was based in the firm’s Truro office, said: “Mr Lingard on many occasions told me that he did not want me in a relationship or to have babies.”
Follett Stock is using its own employment solicitor Guy Hollebon for the case and he was granted permission by the judge to file a defence, despite missing a deadline.The Lawyer understands the firm sent an email without the attachment containing the defence.
The full hearing will take place at a later date and there is a case management hearing in March.
Rougemont Chambers barrister James Bax is acting for Baker, instructed by Stephens Scown head of employment Terry Falcao.
According to the Daily Mail, Lingard criticised staff for taking lunch, the way in which calls were taken, the sign outside not being displayed properly, the radio, the blinds being closed, people leaving at 5pm and employees looking miserable.
It was also alleged that employees were not allowed to talk between the hours of 9am and 1pm, which the company allegedly called ‘golden time’.
In her statement, Baker also claimed that Lingard’s wife Fiona Higgins, the business director at Follett Stock, had sent her a text message confirming that her husband wanted her to remain single.
She accused the firm of “a culture of bullying, oppression, and lack of good systems and support for the employees…”.
Bax claimed that Baker was used a “distraction” at meetings where important clients “seemed to like” her appearance. He said: “She was popular with the chiefs. They were all asking about her.”
He said Baker was told she was sacked for making mistakes that included failing to diarise a hearing correctly.
In a statement to The Lawyer, the firm responded: “Kate Baker was dismissed for gross incompetence and inappropriate email correspondence. She raised no complaint before her dismissal.
“Anyone who knows Follett Stock and our managing partner will recognise her attempted characterisation of our culture and of Chris Lingard as a grotesque distortion of reality.
“Chris is very conscious of discrimination, being severely disabled himself. This makes Ms Baker’s decision to base her allegations on supposed discrimination particularly disappointing.
“Of course we deny her allegations, some of which are frankly laughable.
“Her suggestion that our policy of dedicating each morning entirely to our clients’ work means that ‘nobody is allowed to talk’ is a prime example.”
Follett Stock specialises in litigation and employment law and Lingard was voted in as the firm’s first managing partner in 2005 (20 February 2006).