A female underwriter has won her case for sex discrimination after her boss made lewd comments about her breasts and once told her to ‘shut up’ during a meeting.
Ms Sommer worked as a junior underwriter at insurance giant Swiss Re. She told the employment tribunal that she had been subject to sexual harassment since she began her role in 2017.
At a drinks party in December 2017, Sommer said she had been talking to a group of colleagues about her long-distance relationship with her then-boyfriend, joking that she had relocated to London to demand that he marry her.
Her boss, Robert Llewellyn, then said: “If I had breasts like yours, I would be demanding too.” When she responded that she felt she knew what she wanted, he added: “I bet you like to be on top in bed”.
Sommer complained but Llewellyn denied making the remarks.The party example was one of several cited during the tribunal, including an allegation that Llewellyn said she was interested in pursuing an open relationship.
She also told the tribunal that he had criticised her for having a dominant personality and once screamed at her to “shut up” during a meeting.
Sommer announced she was pregnant in May 2019. The tribunal saw evidence of emails sent two days after this announcement to Swiss Re’s HR department, asking whether it was possible to explore the “boundaries” of corporate policy as they were “not really satisfied” with her performance.
The tribunal also saw a cost savings spreadsheet from September with “let go in 2020” in the comments section next to Sommer’s name.
The judgment said that placing her at risk of redundancy was held to be an act of direct sex discrimination because the company had realised it could do without an underwriter at her grade, but only reached that decision because she was on maternity leave.
Sommer returned to Swiss Re after maternity leave when she was informed that her role was at risk. She left the company in 2021 after challenging the redundancy selection process.
Referring to the “shut up” comment, the judgment said “a male comparator with a similar personality would not have been similarly criticised” and referred to language heard during the tribunal as “intrinsically sexist”.
Compensation will be decided at a later hearing.