Tribunal won by worker who had her position ‘eroded’ whilst on maternity leave
Agruti Rajput, a senior banker who worked for Commerzbank’s in London, has won claims against her employer for sex discrimination, maternity discrimination and harassment after the London Central Employment Tribunal confirmed that her job had been ‘eroded’ whilst on maternity leave. Rajput who had been working at the bank since November 2012 claimed that whilst on maternity leave her job had been ‘marginalised’.
In 2014, Rajput became a deputy to the head of market compliance at the bank. This promotion was due to the positive appraisal that was given to her in 2013. Following her promotion in November 2014, Rajput had a talent rating in October 2014. This talent rating that was completed identified her as a potential successor to the current head of market compliance. Within the talent rating it stated that Rajput could make the move within two years but needed more exposure to project management.
The head of market compliance role became available in June 2015 and the role was subsequently advertised. As part of the hiring process Rajput was interviewed for the position, but due to the ‘toxic’ nature within the team, the employer decided to hire an external candidate.
In November 2015, Rajput made the announcement that she was pregnant. Following this announcement the preferred external candidate was offered the position of head of markets compliance in December 2015.
Whilst at work in March 2016, the waters of Rajput broke and subsequently the baby was born the next day. Whilst the maternity leave of Rajput was ongoing the firm decided to use Julia Burch as a ‘cover person’. Although it was meant to be another worker who was taking over Rajput’s responsibilities, the tribunal found that in reality the role was assumed by Burch.
Return to Work
In May 2016, Rajput got into contact with the bank with regards to attending a quarterly meeting. However, following the conversation she was ‘strongly discouraged’ from attending the meeting.
Additionally, in June 2016 Rajput started to discuss with the company about her return to work. She met with the team in August and expected there to be a formal handover, however none took place. Rajput returned to work in September 2016, when a new talent rating for her was completed. However in this talent rating, the assessor stated that she would be suitable for the role in another two to three years.
The tribunal judgment found that, in November 2016, Rajput complained her position had been “eroded” since she returned from maternity leave and, in February 2017, she complained to the head of market compliance that she was “feeling marginalised”.
The judge in charge of the tribunal found that Rajput had been discriminated against and also found that the company had no real intention of making Burch forego her duties once Rajput returned to work. Furthermore, the tribunal discovered that Rajput had not been considered equally for the promotion in 2015, finding that the employer had deemed her and other female candidate’s attitudes as ‘divisive’. In terms of the maternity discrimination, the tribunal stated that the employer did not want Rajput to come to the quarterly meeting due to “assumptions made about what a woman should do while on maternity leave”.
The head of CIPD legal, Andrew Willis said that “employers need to take steps to ensure gender-related assumptions are not being taken into account when management decisions are made”.
Following the tribunal a Commerzbank spokesperson said it would “seek to appeal the court ruling”.