EAT finds Herbies guilty of sex discrimination

Herbert Smith has lost an appeal against an employment tribunal ruling which found it had discriminated against a part-time manager at the firm.

The Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) this morning (Monday 24 October) upheld claims of unfair dismissal, contravention of part-time workers regulations, victimisation and sex discrimination against the manager, Michelle Langton.

Supported by the Equal Opportunities Commission, Langton said that after returning from maternity leave in April 2002 she was put under pressure by IT head George Kalorkoti to work full-time. Langton also claimed that Kalorkoti told her her future at Herbert Smith depended on whether she was planning on having more children.

In July 2005 the employment tribunal found that Langton had been treated less favourably than other managers who worked full-time, and ordered Herbert Smith to pay £40,000 in damages. It also ordered the firm to re-engage Langton on a jobshare basis.

A spokesperson for Herbert Smith said: “We are disappointed with the judgment of the Employment Appeal Tribunal and continue to believe that the original decision of the Employment Tribunal was wrong. We are today seeking leave to appeal from the Court of Appeal. Flexible working and female retention are important issues for the firm and will remain key priorities for us going forward.”

Lewis Silkin partner Gemma Taylor and 11 King’s Bench Walk’s Clive Sheldon acted for Langton. Herbert Smith instructed Farrer & Co partner Anna Gregory, with Andrew Hochhauser QC of Essex Court Chambers as counsel. Cloisters Chambers’ Paul Epstein appeared for Herbert Smith in the employment tribunal.