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Banker awarded £300k over sex and maternity discrimination

A banker whose responsibilities were eroded while on maternity leave has won her seven-year legal battle against Commerzbank.

Jagruti Rajput won claims for sex discrimination, maternity discrimination and harassment, after the tribunal found she was unfairly dismissed for her ‘divisive’ attitude.

As reported by the Financial Times, Rajput is still an employee at Commerzbank. 

More on maternity discrimination:

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New mothers' rights in the workplace – everything you need to know

Pregnant worker wins unfair dismissal tribunal

In this complex case, the tribunal found that Rajput was criticised by a male boss for returning to work after her waters broke, believing she had “unhealthy obsession with work” and was “controlling”.

She was also strongly discouraged from joining a quarterly team meeting while on leave, which contributed to the tribunal's decisions.

When she returned from maternity leave in 2016, substantial elements of her job had been transferred to a junior employee, Julia Burch, who was her designated cover person. 

Rajput claimed there was no formal handover and her junior employee Burch no longer seemed to directly report to her. 

She said that her seniority in the company had been eroded leaving her feeling marginalised, and the tribunal found there was no real intention for Burch to hand the duties back to Rajput.

It was also ruled that Rajput had not been fairly considered for a market compliance job she had applied for prior to maternity leave in 2015, the company instead recruited another male banker.

The tribunal found there was no prospect of Rajput or another female colleague being appointed due to a stereotypical view of them as ‘divisive’ women. This was ruled as direct sex discrimination.

The tribunal has been hearing submissions this week about possible measures the bank can take to remedy the situation, including offering her future promotion opportunities or mentoring.

Matt Jenkin, employment partner at law firm Moorcrofts, said that the maternity discrimination findings should provide a lesson for employers.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “The starting point for any employer should be that on return from maternity leave an employee is generally entitled to return to work to the same job, on the same terms and conditions as if she had not been absent. Transferring elements of someone’s role should be avoided.” 

He added that employers should avoid making assumptions about the extent to which an employee may be prepared to be involved in meetings during maternity leave.  

“This should be discussed with the employee before they go on maternity leave and keep in touch days provide an ideal opportunity to keep an employee involved if that is something they would like,” he said.

A Commerzbank spokesperson said: “We are disappointed with the Tribunal’s decision on liability and are in the early stages of an appeal. The bank strives to offer an inclusive working environment and does not tolerate workplace discrimination of any sort.” 

The full tribunal decision can be found here.