Muslim bank worker Mona Awad is suing her former employer Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS) for £16.7m for alleged sexual, racial and religious discrimination.
The case is being heard today at Nottingham, where the employment tribunal will begin to consider Awad’s allegations that she was subjected to various forms of discrimination while working for HBOS in Nottingham and Derby in 2007 and 2008.
The married 29-year old claims one boss accused her of sleeping her way to the top, while another said he’d watched her on holiday wearing a bikini. The same man is alleged to have mocked her while she fasted during Ramadan and to have said he did not want to work with Asians.
“This was the sort of disgusting innuendo I had to put up with,” Awad said in papers submitted to the tribunal. “I did my best to ignore it but he knew how to wind me up and to hurt me.”
It is reported that after complaining to her boss about the alleged abuse, Awad was transferred to the bank’s Derby branch but, she claims, another boss also harassed her.
“He asked me in front of my colleagues in a meeting whether I was s******* an employee of a customer. I was devastated.”
Awad’s solicitor, Lawrence Davies, of London law firm Equal Justice, said: “My client is seeking £16.7m in compensation for loss of earnings, injury to feelings, aggravated damages and punitive damages. We shall be arguing that any award of punitive damages should be a percentage of the bank’s gross turnover over the period the alleged discrimination occurred.”
HBOS’s UK turnover in 2007 was £4.25bn.
It is understood the managers concerned have denied the allegations and HBOS is not commenting on the case.
Commenting on the case, Jonathan Maude, partner at Hogan & Hartson, said: “Sound management may have prevented this. As it is, a large number of staff will be needed to both attend the tribunal and will have already given witness statements.
“My experience of these things is that allegations fly around the tribunal, which can lead to a plethora of grievances being brought internally, which just leads to a terrible problem for the employer.”
The highest ever award made was of £19m to City lawyer Gill Switalski, who won a sex discrimination claims against F&C Asset Management. But the case is still continuing after F&C was given permission to present fresh evidence.