BNP Broker Suing for Harassment Found Witch's Hat on Desk

(Bloomberg) -- A broker at BNP Paribas SA said she faced a "campaign of harassment" at the lender that culminated one morning when she came into work to find a witch’s hat on her desk.

Stacey Macken, a prime brokerage product manager, was told that the hat was placed there by a group including the head of the unit who’d been out drinking the night before. Macken made the allegation as part of her sexual-discrimination lawsuit at a London employment tribunal.

“I was shocked to arrive at work to find a witch’s hat on my desk and wondered what I had done to deserve this," Macken said in her written submission. The executive involved in the incident has since left the bank.

The case comes at a time when sexual discrimination in the workplace is under greater scrutiny in the wake of the #MeToo movement. In another lawsuit in London, BNP faces claims that a manager called a banker “princess” behind her back.

In U.K. employment cases, an award is capped at around 84,000 pounds ($110,000) unless a worker can show discrimination or that they were fired for blowing the whistle on improper actions. Macken is seeking more than 4 million pounds in compensation "including stigma damages," BNP said in a written submission.

‘Poor Treatment’

"Due to the incredibly poor treatment that I have endured at BNP I feel that my career lies in tatters and has been irretrievably damaged due to the fact that I wanted my equal pay issues resolved," Macken said.

Macken said that on her first day in the office in 2013, her line manager Denis Pihan told her that he was worried about hiring a woman.

"He said he liked the ‘laddish behavior’ and hoped that it would not change by the introduction of women into the business," she said.

At a previous hearing, Macken said he had left her performance review out on a desk overnight. The “color drained from his face,” when she confronted him about it.

She also said Pihan started a performance conversation by saying: "We do not believe this is the right bank for you. What do you want to do about it?" BNP said Pihan remembers it differently and simply asked if she was in the right role.

"In either case, the question was borne out of Mr. Pihan’s concern for Ms. Macken’s well-being," BNP Paribas’s lawyer Daniel Stilitz said in a court filing.

Pihan was neither a crude nor macho individual, he said.

‘Snowballed’

Macken didn’t complain of the alleged harassment until later, Stilitz said. In fact, Macken’s allegations "snowballed" over the last two years and her complaints were all investigated properly.

Macken said she was paid less than male colleagues in similar roles and she was continually given lower bonuses throughout her six years at the bank. She remains at BNP on long-term sick leave.

The lender countered that another employee who was hired soon after Macken -- with the same job title -- was given a more senior role because he consistently performed better and received higher ratings in performance reviews.

"We do not tolerate discrimination within the workplace and are committed to ensuring a continued focus on our conduct and culture," BNP said in an emailed statement. "We encourage all employees to speak up where they experience or encounter any behavior that falls below our standards."

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.