BNP Banker Who Called Colleague a ‘Princess’ Says He Was Joking
(Bloomberg) -- A BNP Paribas SA banker who called his female colleague a “princess” said he meant it humorously and in a friendly manner, and he didn’t undervalue her work because she was a woman.
Regis Pecheux, the bank’s head of corporate sales for central and eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, said in a London court Thursday that he’d used the term about his colleague Angelina Georgievska “jokingly.” Pecheux, who was Georgievska’s boss, also referred to her as “choupette.”
“I certainly did not consider it belittling at the time,” he said of making the “princess” comment when Georgievska wasn’t around. “It was meant more in a friendly manner.”
He’s testifying in an employment tribunal case where Georgievska, head of the bank’s corporate derivatives group for central and eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, is suing BNP for sex and disability discrimination. Georgievska’s been on long-term sick leave since March 2017, and is still ill, she said at an earlier hearing in the case. She suffers from uterine tumors that can cause “extreme pain” and leave her bedridden.
A spokeswoman for Paris-based BNP said the bank has “thoroughly investigated” the allegations and “is satisfied that the claims of alleged discrimination and unfair treatment are unfounded.”
In a case that offers a glimpse into daily life inside at least a part of the bank, Pecheux said he didn’t think it was necessary to apologize to Georgievska for the “princess” comment. That’s because “trading floors are sometimes not particularly civil environments; aggression, dark humor and sarcasm are on display every day, which makes it an unusual, if never boring, working environment,” he said in his witness statement. Georgievska was “fully accustomed to this environment,” he said.
Pecheux called her a “princess” when she wasn’t in the room, one of her co-workers told the tribunal last week. Georgievska found the term “very offensive and undermining” when she found out, she said in court filings.
Georgievska started her working days later than others, Pecheux said in his testimony, and he used the word to mean “somebody who’s above the general crowd” and therefore can “afford to arrive later” than others. “I was asking, where is our princess today?” he said.
Pecheux was “irritated” with Georgievska’s behavior, and “did not express myself properly or appropriately which I regret,” he said in his witness statement.
During his testimony he said he’d also called her “choupette” -- a French word that he said is roughly equivalent to “sweetie” or “darling.” He couldn’t remember whether he said that to her face or behind her back but said it was “absolutely not intended to be belittling.”
Another colleague later told him the word princess was inappropriate, he said.
In U.K. employment cases, an award is capped at around 84,000 pounds ($106,200) unless a worker can show discrimination or that they were 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.
The case is Angelina Georgievska and BNP Paribas London Branch, London Central Employment Tribunal, Case No 2206800/2017
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