F&C Asset Management is preparing to challenge a multi-million pound discrimination claim brought by its former head of legal services.
The employment tribunal has upheld discrimination, harassment and victimisation claims brought by Gillian Switalski who joined the company in 2000 and quit in September.
In a statement the F&C refuted her claims: “F&C is disappointed in the breakdown in trust between the company and Ms. Switalski which has resulted in an Employment Tribunal.”
It continued: “We vigorously refute all of the claims made against the company and an appeal is pending against the adverse findings made.”
The tribunal upheld a series of claims, including claims that she was overlooked for management positions in favour of her male colleagues.
Also that she was unfairly scrutinised by her line manager when she took time off to look after her disabled son. By comparison, a male employee, who also had a child with special needs, was granted time out of the office.
When she cancelled a work trip following the death of her mother, the company demanded she produce a death certificate to validate the company’s insurance claim, the tribunal was told.
F&C is currently appealing the claim, with the appeal expected to be heard in April. If it fails the company could be forced to pay the £13.4m Switalski claims she has lost in earnings since the harassment began.
McDermott Will & Emery partners David Dalgarno and Alison Weatherfield have instructed Monica Carss-Frisk QC of Blackstone Chambers to act on behalf of F&C.
Withers partner Elaine Aarons has instructed Suzanne McKie of Devereux Chambers to act on behalf of Switalski.
Switalski was credited with revolutionising F&C’s legal department. When she joined the company had just one in-house lawyer. By 2004, when she was named in The Lawyer’s Hot 100, 95 per cent of the fund’s legal work was handled in-house.