Lawyer makes sex discrimination claim against City asset management firm

MoJA City lawyer who claims she was harassed and discriminated against by a portfolio manager at a City asset management firm has brought her claims to the Employment Tribunal.

Margaret Rowe, 65, joined asset management firm Fidelity Worldwide Investment in 2007 as head of the investments legal team. She complained in 2014 that she had been victimised after alleging that she had not been given a proper opportunity to apply for a promotion because of a previous complaint that she had been discriminated against.

An investigation was commenced into her claim and it was concluded that she had not been subjected to sex discrimination or bullying. Ms Rowe was subsequently dismissed from her job and brought complaints to the Employment Tribunal of sex discrimination and unfair dismissal.

Ms Rowe, who earned up to £184,000 a year in salary and bonuses as the head of the investments legal team, has claimed that a number of discriminatory and harassing incidents took place during her employment with the asset management firm, including:

  • The head of portfolio management had showed junior women colleagues photographs of a full-frontal portrait of his wife
  • That she had been victimised by the firm, arguing that she had not been promoted to a role at the firm because she had previously complained of discrimination

Fidelity Worldwide Investment deny Ms Rowe’s claims and are contesting them at the Employment Tribunal.

The claim commenced earlier this month at the Central London Employment Tribunal.  Katherine Attisha, head of human resources at Fidelity, denied in evidence that the men at the firm were sexist or treated her differently. She further gave evidence that Ms Rowe was regarded at the firm as being “quite blunt”, that Ms Rowe’s emails to other staff members would often contain criticism and carry a “negative undertone”, and that she “frequently overstepped the mark from professional interaction to personal attack”, adding the Ms Rowe seemed “ultra-sensitive”.

The tribunal also heard evidence from Nicola McCabe, head of investment trusts at Fidelity, that another executive director at Fidelity had told her that “when Ms Rowe didn’t like the outcome of a discussion or an outcome of a decision that she could then say this was because she was a woman rather than the fact that it was a business decision” and that she would “the woman card”.

A decision is expected in the case later this year.

Chris Hadrill, aspecialist employment solicitor, commented on the case: “If an employee complains that they have been harassed, discriminated against or victimised in the course of their employment then the employer should take careful steps to investigate these complaints – a failure to do so could open up the employer to a claim for victimisation in the Employment Tribunal.”