Swiss Re unit loses unfair dismissal case over sexist remarks

Former employee found to have been harassed and discriminated against

Swiss Re unit loses unfair dismissal case over sexist remarks

Diversity & Inclusion

By Terry Gangcuangco

The Central London Employment Tribunal has found that Swiss Re Corporate Solutions Services Limited unfairly dismissed a female underwriter who was both harassed and discriminated against by a male superior.

According to the 72-page judgment seen by Insurance Business, Julia Sommer’s claims of direct sex discrimination, maternity-related discrimination, and sex-related harassment each succeeded in part. Her claims of equal pay and victimization, however, failed and were dismissed, but the tribunal declared that Sommer was indeed unfairly dismissed by the Swiss Re unit.

Sommer was employed from June 2017 as a political risk underwriter in London as part of a global political risk and trade credit team led at the time by Zurich-based Robert Llewelyn. It was alleged that she was subject to sexist conduct by Llewelyn which ultimately led to her being let go last year.

“The respondent (Swiss Re) contends that the reason (or principal reason) for dismissal was a fair reason under section 98(2), namely redundancy,” stated Employment Judge Emery. “For reasons outlined… we did not accept that the respondent is able to prove that the claimant’s position was redundant. There was no evidence of a reduction in the work for underwriters, or a reorganization which lessened the need for a junior underwriter.

“We considered that the use of redundancy was retrofitted onto a pre-existing decision to exit the claimant. It follows that the respondent has not proven the reason for dismissal, and it is accordingly unfair. As stated… we consider that the reason for dismissal stems from a decision taken by Mr Llewelyn that her conduct merited dismissal, a decision we conclude was an act of direct sex discrimination.”

It was concluded that there was continuing discrimination on the part of Llewelyn – whose dealings with the claimant included less favorable treatment, verbal attack, as well as comments such as “If I had breasts like yours, I would be demanding too” – based on Sommer’s sex.

Meanwhile, the remedy, including compensation, to which the claimant is entitled is yet to be determined.

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