Gibson Dunn & Crutcher is appearing in the London Central Employment Tribunal this week in an attempt to fight off a sex discrimination claim brought by a former employee.
Dionne Paull, who worked at the firm’s City office for almost three years as an accounts manager, is claiming sex discrimination and unfair dismissal against the firm. She is claiming for damages for injury to feelings, loss of earnings and for injury to health.
Paull claims she was dismissed in November 2011, after being off on maternity leave for a year, “on the pretext” of alleged gross misconduct over a deficiency in the firm’s petty cash.
During her time at Gibson Dunn Paull’s duties included responsibility for petty cash. The claim form alleges that Gibson Dunn ran a system whereby any small temporary deficits in petty cash were made up from a coin bag containing around £15, with any surplus in petty cash used to replenish the bag.
Paull alleges that she observed other employees using their own money to fund shortfalls when the bag was empty and in March 2010, after a deficit of £6 was discovered, she and two other employees each paid £2 to make up the shortfall. She claims that the next month, unbeknown to her, a more junior employee made up a £60 shortfall out of her own pocket but did not inform Paull of her actions.
Paull claims that when she discovered what had happened she informed her line manager of the £6 deficit. She alleges that she had not been criticised for this action.
The claim form says that following the coin bag deficits, in July 2010 Paull was informed that Gibson Dunn was restructuring its accounts department and that its “plans no longer included the claimant”. Paull claims she was asked to sign a compromise agreement or be summarily dismissed following a disciplinary process.
She went on sick leave the following day and disciplinary proceedings instituted at the end of July were postponed due to her illness. Paull went on maternity leave at the beginning of November 2010 and was dismissed a year later.
The claim alleges that Gibson Dunn “raised a number of other contrived complaints”, including breaches of Solicitors Account Rules, to justify Paull’s dismissal, but that in fact Paull was dismissed because of her pregnancy and because the firm did not want to bear the “cost and inconvenience” of her being absent from the office.
The claim says Paull had been harshly treated by her line manager during and after a previous miscarriage.
The case will be heard in the Employment Tribunal all this week.
Gibson Dunn’s London co-managing partner James Cox said: “We believe that these claims are without merit and we’re vigorously defending them.”
Cox would not confirm who was representing the firm, but The Lawyer understands that Littleton Chambers’ Suzanne McKie QC has been instructed.
Paull is represented by Matthew Dillon of Essex firm MJD Solicitors, instructing 12 Old Square’s Anthony Philpott.