Herbert Smith faces £40,000 payout on sex discrimination ruling

Law firm Herbert Smith has been ordered to pay £40,000 to a former employee after the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) upheld a sex discrimination ruling against the firm.

The EAT backed five out of six claims against Herbert Smith, after an employment tribunal in July found that part-time IT manager Michelle Langton had suffered discrimination and unfair dismissal.

Langton, who had worked for Herbert Smith for six years, returned from maternity leave in April 2002, on a part-time basis, which included half a day working from home.

In September 2003, she came under increasing pressure from her new line manager, George Kalorkoti, to revert to working during the firm’s ‘core hours’, the tribunal heard.

She was told there was ‘no flexibility’ for her to continue to do some of her work from home and that her childcare responsibilities were ‘not the concern of Herbert Smith’.

Kalorkoti said that Langton’s future career at the firm depended on whether she was ‘planning on having any more children’.

Langton raised a grievance about Kalorkoti’s treatment of her and lodged proceedings under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975. The original tribunal upheld her claim, which has now been ratified by the EAT.

Jenny Watson, acting chair of The Equal Opportunities Commission, said: “We are delighted with the tribunal’s decision, which sends a clear message that companies must treat part-time workers fairly regardless of seniority.”

Herbert Smith said in a statement: “We are disappointed with the judgment, and continue to the believe the original decision of the employment tribunal was wrong. Flexible working and female retention are important issues for the firm and will remain key priorities for us going forward.”

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