London Trader Wins Suit After Work Stress Leads to Clinical Depression

(Bloomberg) -- The head of equities and fixed income at Archer-Daniels-Midland Co.’s U.K. brokerage won a disability discrimination lawsuit against the firm after stress at work drove him to clinical depression.

A London employment tribunal ruled that ADM Investor Services International Ltd. and its managing director directly discriminated against Adam Glover Bailie because he was disabled. The court also ruled that Bailie was unfavorably treated as a consequence of his disability.

Bailie, who had worked for the unit for 22 years and earned 446,000 pounds ($581,000) in 2017, was diagnosed with clinical depression in January 2018. He was prescribed anti-depressants a month later, after working long hours to manage funds of the company and clients during wild swings in the markets, and in May was given temporary medical leave for work-related stress.

The then 46-year-old trader hasn’t worked since he was given permanent leave in August 2018.

“My client is delighted his case has been successful, not only for himself but for other workers in the industry who suffer from stress and anxiety created by a hostile and unsupportive working environment and culture,” Bailie’s lawyer, Shazia Khan, said in an email. “Senior managers in the financial services industry will now really have to take these issues very seriously going forward if they want to avoid further such claims made against them.”

Claims of indirect discrimination, failure to make reasonable adjustments, harassment and victimization were dismissed. ADMISI and Managing Director Fabian Somerville-Cotton declined to comment on the ruling. ADM didn’t respond to a request for comment.

A hearing to determine the damages will be held in January. In British employment cases, an award is capped at just above 80,000 pounds unless a worker can show discrimination or that they were fired for blowing the whistle on improper actions.

Market Crash

Some of Bailie’s claims focus on Feb. 6, 2018, when the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index had one of its most volatile days since 2015, triggering panic in trading rooms around the globe. Bailie worked overnight to manually calculate margins while trying to speak to clients and to close positions in order to limit losses. His efforts managed to reduce a possible loss of as much as $10 million down to $2.2 million, according to the judgment.

“The tribunal finds that the claimant found this experience extremely stressful and further that he felt unsupported by both the first respondent’s risk department and management generally,” an employment tribunal panel led by Judge Timothy Adkin said in the ruling. “He plainly felt that he had been left on his own to deal with this highly stressful problem.”

His depression continued to get worse. While Bailie was on vacation in August last year, Somerville-Cotton told his colleagues in an email that he would continue in a senior leadership role but that another employee would take on the role of co-head of the department with overall responsibility for the team.

The tribunal found this to be direct discrimination and unfavorable treatment of Bailie as a result of his disability. Because Somerville-Cotton is employed by ADMISI and the permanent restructuring was his decision, he is also liable, the judge said.

The U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority has shown in recent reports that it’s determined to set minimum standards for the behavior of those working in the finance industry in order to transform the culture, Khan said. This case will be a forerunner of many similar claims, she said.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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