City high-flier loses bias case

The government’s attempt to foster a more family-friendly working culture
has suffered a setback after a tribunal ruled against a City director who says
she was made redundant because she asked for more flexible working

Aisling Sykes, formerly vice-president of the Transaction Execution Group at
the capital markets division of JP Morgan, claimed her employer directly
discriminated against her when it dismissed her while she was pregnant. She
also claimed indirect discrimination for the employer’s failure to comply with
her request for a three-day week so she could see her children more.

The tribunal ruled she had been unfairly dismissed but had not suffered
discrimination. It said the requirement to work full time was one the applicant
could in practice comply with and was "wholly justifiable in the

The decision is likely to limit drastically the amount of compensation Sykes
can expect to receive because of the £50,000 cap on unfair dismissal awards.

Christine O’Brien, head of Baker & McKenzie’s employment department
which represented the employer, said the decision was "grounded in common
sense. The essence of the decision is that if working mothers accept positions
in demanding jobs for substantial salaries, it should not constitute sex
discrimination if the office hours necessarily associated with their position
prevent them from spending as much time at home as they might wish."

But senior employment lawyer at Mishcon de Reya Joanna Blackburn said the case
sent out the "unfortunate message that if you are paid a hefty salary you
can be worked as hard as an employer likes. This is not a good thing for women
or for anyone."

In another case last month a banker won her sex discrimination case against
her former employer Deutsche Bank.

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