City sexism tribunal is tip of iceberg, says lawyer

The £1.3m sex discrimination case being fought at an employment tribunal this week is just the tip of an iceberg of City bias, a lawyer has claimed.

Katharina Tofeji has hit the headlines with her claims that she was forced to quit her job as a trader for bank BNP Paribas after taking maternity leave.

Tofeji is claiming £1.3m for sexual discrimination, unfair dismissal and breaches of maternity and flexible working conditions.

But Guy Guinan, an employment partner at law company Halliwells, said many more cases of this magnitude were being settled in private.

“The perception of most city brokerages is that they remain a male-dominated preserve and exude a sex bias,” Guinan said. “Women working within the industry are generally expected to conform to the male stereotype and become ‘one of the boys’ – or face being ostracised.

“While many such cases arise, most will settle quietly outside of the public domain. In practice, due to enforced confidentiality agreements, the extent of the actual problem is probably being masked.”

Tofeji’s case centres on BNP Paribas’s alleged refusal to grant her a four-day working week after she returned from a year’s maternity leave in May 2006.

She claims to have suffered sexism for several years, saying that on one occasion a colleague joked about her washing the dishes before leaving a client dinner.

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