US firm to face UK tribunal

NEW York firm Curtis Mallet-Prevost Colt & Mosle is facing an industrial tribunal this week over allegations that it unfairly dismissed its London office manager.

Former employee Joan Asghari, who was employed by the firm on a full-time basis from 1989, has made an application to the tribunal claiming unfair dismissal and sex discrimination.

Asghari, who also worked as the firm's accounts supervisor, was made redundant from her u21,500 per year position in September 1993 after returning from a four month period of maternity leave.

She claims she was “staggered and incredulous” at the dismissal, which was allegedly carried out by managing partner Albert Francke. Asghari says Francke had previously assured her that her job was being held.

Asghari's application says her job was given instead to Francke's secretary.

In its notice of appearance, the US firm says both the recession and the failure of its expansion strategy had forced it to reduce staff levels and its decision to dismiss Ashari “was taken as a result of a careful study of the firm's staff requirements”.

“The forced cuts in the number of fee earning lawyers directly reduced the need for administrative staff and, in particular, the functions undertaken by the applicant were no longer required at all, and/or those which remained were capable of being dealt with by existing staff,” says the notice.

“We do not accept that the applicant has been unfairly dismissed, or suffered any sex discrimination.”