In a new twist concerning bullying and sexual harassment controversies at Lloyds of London, a senior lawyer at insurer Tokio Marine Kiln Group is set to sue his employer over his treatment by the firm since he helped blow the whistle on sexual harassment incidents.
According to Bloomberg, whistleblower Ifeanyi Okoh filed a complaint last month at a London employment tribunal suggesting that senior managers at Tokio Marine Kiln Group had sought to undermine his credibility.
Okoh alleged he was characterised as being mentally unstable and that his motivations were financial after he sent an email in April that said there was a culture of fear at the firm.
Okoh had sent an email to TMK CEO Charles Frank that stated: “Sadly, this is part of a longstanding pattern in TMK, one further amplified by systemic intimidation, normalisation of harassment and inhibiting reporting.”
Not long before Okoh sent his email, two senior executives had resigned from the company after one had grabbed a female colleague’s buttocks and had tried to unbutton another’s shirt, while making lewd comments, at a party for the group’s employees. The other bombarded a woman who reported to him with text messages and emails asking her out on dates even after she said she wasn’t interested.
The incidents became public knowledge after TMK CEO Charles Franks called a “town hall meeting” in response to a Bloomberg Businessweek article, where he condemned the widespread behaviour it revealed.
“I have been contacted by several TMK employees and ex-employees who recounted some of the most appalling and shocking details of bullying, intimidation, harassment, victimisation, unwanted attention, sexual harassment and racial abuse,” Okoh said in the email.
In response to Bloomberg, a TMK spokeswoman suggested that while it couldn’t comment on the specifics of the complaint it had a “clear whistleblowing policy in place”.
She added: “We do not tolerate the victimisation of any whistleblower, and are committed to promoting diversity and inclusion at every level of the business. We acted promptly on the original allegations made by the whistleblower, and a thorough and independent investigation into these is well under way.”
One week after Okoh’s email was sent to Frank, Okoh attended a meeting with a senior manager and was told his work was “crap” despite a positive appraisal weeks earlier. Okoh reportedly asked a colleague to join the meeting, but at that point the manager allegedly said: “this relationship is not going to work.” Okoh hasn’t returned to work since, the filing suggests.
The complaint goes on to suggest that on 24 April, Franks sent an email to head of HR Nigel Clemson suggesting he seek advice from the company’s lawyers on how to handle Okoh. It is then alleged that two days later Clemson sent a text message to another executive outlining the law firm’s advice – which allegedly included expressing concerns over Okoh’s mental health and asking him to “seek urgent medical help.”
The executive however told Clemson, Okoh’s filing said, that it wasn’t their job to assess Okoh’s mental health. Clemson responded: “Their [the law firm’s] logic is it shows us as caring and that it flags his questionable state of mind.”
Allegations were also made that the official said Okoh’s motivations were financial and that he was probably only taking these steps “because the claimant is ‘black’.” Allegedly these comments were reported by the third party to the Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulation Authority.
Okoh is said to be seeking unspecified damages and a statement from the company that he has been subjected to unlawful treatment.