A former Swiss Re AG underwriter who suffered sexist treatment from her boss was awarded almost £1.3 million ($1.64 million) by a London employment tribunal, among the largest court-ordered payouts in the UK in recent years.
(Bloomberg) — A former Swiss Re AG underwriter who suffered sexist treatment from her boss was awarded almost £1.3 million ($1.64 million) by a London employment tribunal, among the largest court-ordered payouts in the UK in recent years.
Julia Sommer was left humiliated by a senior manager who told her “if I had breasts like yours I would be demanding too.” She was awarded the sum after the tribunal ruled last year that she’d been the victim of sex discrimination at the company.
London’s employment tribunals are at the front line of unfair-dismissal claims between financial firms and employees, although sex discrimination claims are often settled behind closed doors. While claims for unfair dismissal are usually capped at a payout of around £100,000, damages are unlimited if discrimination is proved.
Swiss Re declined to comment on the size of the award. In an email, the firm said it does “not tolerate discrimination of any kind and is committed to providing an equal and inclusive workplace for all employees.” Sommer’s lawyer wasn’t immediately available to comment.
Swiss Re had initially argued that Sommer’s firing was part of a genuine dismissal process but the judges said there was a culture at Swiss Re of “open comments about relationships” made in social settings.
The remarks “undermined my professional credibility in a public professional setting and reduced me to a sexual joke,” Sommer said in a witness statement. The senior manager Robert Llewellyn, who no longer works at the company, denied making the comments during the April 2022 tribunal.
Llewellyn’s comments may have been a joke, the panel of judges said, noting it was “sexist demeaning and derogatory but an attempted joke nonetheless – which went badly wrong and should never have been made.”
Sommer later made a sex-discrimination complaint against Llewellyn in 2019 after he shouted “shut up, Julia!” to her at a meeting, which she claims was a pattern of mistreatment directed toward her as the only female underwriter on the team. Sommer said this caused her “extreme stress,” and it coincided with the early stages of her pregnancy.
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