Banker wins £2m for sexual discrimination in ‘witch hat’ case | Employment tribunals

A City banker who had a witch’s hat left on her desk by drunken male colleagues has won more than £2m in compensation for sexual discrimination.

Stacey Macken, 50, sued French bank BNP Paribas after being belittled by her boss who kept telling her “not now, Stacey” – a phrase he used so often that colleagues even copied it.

The £120k-a-year finance specialist claimed that over a four-year period she received hundreds of thousands of pounds less than her male peers in salary and bonuses and that after she complained, managers targeted her with unfair treatment.

Macken won £2,081,449 after suing the international bank, reportedly one of the largest awards ever made by a British tribunal.

The employment judge, Emma Burns, criticised Macken’s bosses for acting “spitefully and vindictively” and increased her compensation because the bank failed to apologise to her.

The London Central tribunal heard that Macken, previously a vice-president at Deutsche Bank, was hired by BNP in Paribas in 2013.

But unknown to her, a man hired with the same job title and responsibilities was being paid £160,000.

Within months of joining, she claimed she was exposed to sexist behaviour involving one of her bosses in the prime brokerage team, Matt Pinnock.

His former PA, Georgina Chapman, told a tribunal: “In October 2013, a large Halloween-style black witch’s hat was left on Stacey Macken’s desk after some of the prime brokerage team, including Matthew Pinnock, had gone drinking at the pub towards the end of the day.”

She added: “Stacey was visibly upset and confided in me that she felt really uncomfortable working with those male colleagues, knowing that one of them had purposefully gone out of their way to leave a witch’s hat on her desk.”

Another boss, Denis Pihan, was accused of routinely demeaning her by replying “not now, Stacey” when she tried to talk to him.

Macken, from Fulham, in west London, was successful in her claims of sex discrimination, victimisation, and unequal pay.

The tribunal ruled the leaving of a witch’s hat on her desk was an “inherently sexist act” and the regular use of “not now, Stacey” was branded a “demeaning comment”.

At Macken’s compensation hearing, Judge Burns said: “We consider the tribunal panel found that Mr Pinnock and Mr Pihan behaved spitefully and vindictively towards Miss Macken because she had raised concerns about her pay and that they did have a discriminatory motive.

“We consider the [bank] should apologise more fully from a purely moral perspective, but we decline from ordering it to do this.

“In our judgment, for an apology to be effective it needs to be genuine and heartfelt rather than ordered … We have taken into account the bank’s failure to apologise when awarding aggravated damages. We consider this is the correct approach in this case.”

Pihan “apologised for causing distress” at the tribunal but “did not acknowledge that he personally discriminated against Miss Macken, nor did he apologise for discriminating against her”.

The bank claimed it has now adopted a “detailed gender strategy and gender action plan” in response to its poor gender pay gap and is “trying to increase the number of women at senior management level”.

Macken, who said her ordeal had an impact on her mental health, is also a qualified accountant who was raised and educated in New Zealand.

A tribunal report said of her: “She has prioritised her 22-year career in banking over other lifestyle choices. This includes remaining single and not having children.

“She enjoyed her work and was fulfilled by it. Other than keeping her personal fitness at a high level she pursued no other hobbies or interests.”

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