BNP Sued by Woman Who Says Outspokenness Led to Discrimination

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(Bloomberg) -- A BNP Paribas SA executive who described herself as an “outspoken woman” is suing the bank’s London branch, saying she faced discrimination because of her gender and a health condition.

Angelina Georgievska, head of the bank’s corporate derivatives group for central and eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, said in her witness statement at the start of a nine-day hearing on Monday that a “culture of presenteeism” had put her at a disadvantage. She also believes she was “treated less favorably because I was not quiet -- I was an outspoken woman,” who’d complained about pay.

Staff were encouraged to spend long hours at their desk, to cope with demanding travel schedules and to be contactable around the clock, she said. This was difficult because she suffered from uterine tumors that could cause “extreme pain” and leave her bedridden.

“My disability is very much gender related,” she said in court on Monday. She’s been on long-term sick leave since March 2017, and is still ill, she said.

Georgievska has “suffered from discriminatory treatment since 2014,” she said in her witness statement. A colleague questioned her about her health in a way that she found “inappropriate” and “insensitive,” she said.

A spokeswoman for Paris-based BNP said the bank has “thoroughly investigated” Georgievska’s allegations and “is satisfied that the claims of alleged discrimination and unfair treatment are unfounded.” Georgievska’s lawyers declined to comment while she’s testifying.

In U.K. employment cases, an award is capped at around 84,000 pounds ($108,000) unless a worker can show discrimination or that they were fired for blowing the whistle on improper actions. When faced with a full court hearing, banks fighting sex discrimination claims often tend to settle rather than air the issues in public.

Another BNP Paribas employee, Stacey Macken, is suing the bank in London for sex discrimination in a separate case where a preliminary hearing was held last month.

Equal Pay

Georgievska said in a witness statement that she was overlooked for promotion, had responsibilities removed from her and was paid less than some male colleagues. She believes her 2014 bonus, which was lower than bonuses paid to some colleagues, was discriminatory, she said in the document.

Georgievska told the court Monday that by complaining about pay she “wasn’t asking for anything outlandish,” just to be paid the same as her peers.

Judge David Pearl issued an order that prevents the press from reporting how much she and four colleagues were paid in salary and bonuses after the bank’s lawyer said the information about her colleagues’ pay should be private.

Georgievska, who joined the bank as a graduate trainee in 2004, said she started using flexible working arrangements because of her condition in mid-2013.

“My disability meant that I needed reasonable adjustments which included working from home where appropriate and organizing business travel around my illness,” she said in her witness statement. “I was accordingly viewed negatively by my managers.”

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