BNP Broker Wins Sex Discrimination Lawsuit, Highlighting Unequal Pay, Laddish Culture

By | September 18, 2019

A broker at BNP Paribas SA who complained about being paid less than male colleagues won her employment suit after a London judge ruled that she suffered sexual discrimination.

Stacey Macken, a prime brokerage product manager who still works at the bank, said the judgment “proves that pay discrimination is occurring in the banking industry.” Macken said she was continually paid less than male colleagues who held similar roles, and that a colleague described behavior in the office as “laddish.” On one occasion, Macken came into work to find a witch’s hat on her desk.

“Leaving a witch’s hat on a female employee’s desk, in a predominantly male working environment, was an inherently sexist act,” Judge James Tayler said in a ruling published Tuesday. The episode “potentially reflects on the nature of working environment” at BNP Paribas “and the approach that was taken to women.”

Macken used her savings and a personal loan to fund the three-year legal battle, an issue that Bloomberg highlighted last week in a report exposing the pressure and legal tactics that employers use to silence staff. The case comes at a time when sexual discrimination in the workplace is under greater scrutiny in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

“We are disappointed by the findings and do not believe the allegations made are a true reflection of our culture,” Alexandra Umpleby, a spokeswoman for BNP Paribas in London, said in an e-mailed statement. She said the bank is considering whether to appeal.

In U.K. employment cases, awards are capped at around 84,000 pounds ($104,000) unless a worker can show discrimination or that they were fired for blowing the whistle on improper actions. Macken was seeking more than 4 million pounds in compensation, though a hearing to decide the size of her recovery hasn’t been scheduled.

The broker said during the trial she was continually given lower bonuses than male staff and said after the ruling she wanted the bank to conduct an extensive pay audit “to ensure no other female employees are being discriminated against.”

Macken’s lawyer Sheila Aly previously noted that BNP Paribas stands out from other banks by not using using traditional investment banking titles in Europe. She said that the judgment “provides an important warning against opaque pay structures in the banking industry.”

The court rejected BNP Paribas’ “implicit suggestion that banks are somehow in a special position and that we should accept as a fact of life that they have opaque pay structures.”

“I want to see BNP Paribas change and improve as a result of this,” Macken said.

–With assistance from Donal Griffin.

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