A Commerzbank AG executive who won sex and maternity discrimination claims against the bank wants an unusual form of compensation: favorable treatment for future promotions.
Jagruti Rajput, a senior compliance officer at the bank’s London branch, won a court ruling that the bank had discriminated against her by failing to fairly consider her for a promotion, and by taking advantage of her absence on maternity leave to pass “significant elements” of her role to a colleague. She found her role had been diminished upon her return.
Now, Rajput wants a London judge to recommend that the bank “takes positive action to train and independently mentor” her for a promotion, her lawyer Elaine Banton told the court Wednesday. If there’s a “tie break” between Rajput and a candidate of “equal merit in terms of qualifications and years of experience,” Rajput should get preference for the role because as a woman, she’s from an under-represented group, Banton said.
She’s also seeking compensation for three years of payments that she says she would’ve received if she’d been promoted, Banton told the court.
Rajput’s lawyer didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment. A Commerzbank spokeswoman declined to comment.
Banton and Judge James Tayler spent more than a half-hour in discussion Thursday about how her proposal would work and whether it’s compatible with laws on equality. “If no one is qualified, she doesn’t get promoted,” Banton said. “This is not positive discrimination. You have to have equal merit.”
Rajput’s request for favorable treatment on promotions is “unusual,” said Bettina Bender, an employment attorney at Winckworth Sherwood, who isn’t involved in the case. Potential rivals for promotion may have other so-called protected characteristics, over which it’s unlawful to discriminate, such as their age or ethnic background.
“The only time it would really work is if she’s up against a white male who’s not too old and not too young,” Bender said.
Positive discrimination and the use of quotas to help promote women in the City has long been a contentious issue. While a large number of women have been against the idea, believing it could undermine their achievements, the tide has started to shift as a lack of progress has been shown in getting more women into senior roles. U.K. government figuresfrom earlier this year showed that women hold 29 percent of board seats in FTSE 100 companies.
The Financial Conduct Authority’s Head of Supervision, Megan Butler, said last year she now supported the idea of setting targets for more women in the finance industry — a u-turn on her views a decade ago.
It’s not common for people to keep working at companies that they take to court, as Rajput has, Bender said.
“Most employees find it very, very stressful to be in conflict” with their employer, Bender said. “It requires someone who is fairly resilient to do that.”
If Rajput wins that demand, it wouldn’t be the first unusual request granted by an employment tribunal in recent months. In August, former Barclays Plc trader David Fotheringhame won a long-shot campaign to get a job back at the bank, after it fired him.
The judgment in Rajput’s case describes a series of ways in which women face job discrimination, and comes at a time when women are discussing sexual discrimination in the workplace in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
“Traits that are considered as positives in men may be seen as negative when they are exhibited by women,” Tayler said in the ruling.
While men are often praised for hard work, he said, Rajput’s former boss Stephan Niermann, then a compliance head at the bank, described her as having an “unhealthy obsession with work.”
Niermann made “stereotypical,” gender-related assumptions about Rajput and treated a male colleague as a senior member of the team as a result, the ruling said, and this was “direct sex discrimination.”
Niermann left Commerzbank in September, according to his LinkedIn profile. He didn’t immediately respond to an email and LinkedIn message seeking comment.