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Sex discrimination case – whistle-blower awarded £75 pay-out

A female City executive has been awarded a £75,000 pay-out after an employment tribunal heard that she had blown the whistle on financial malpractice. The claimant said that she had been subjected to sex discrimination.

Working for online brokerage company ActivTrades, Ms Svetlana Sinelnikova told the tribunal that she had been suspended as head of compliance.

The suspension took place after Ms Sinelnikova went on a trip to Dubai with a senior colleague while she was off sick.

Employment judge Ross at the East London centre ruled that the company had attempted to force Ms Sinelnikova out and was using the trip as a reason to dismiss her. ActivTrades was found guilty of victimisation and unfair dismissal.

Ms Sinelnikova told the panel that her attempt to flag up certain legal concerns about potential deals was seen by ActivTrades as obstructing business.

The tribunal ruled that because the company was trying to force Ms Sinelnikova out, they were simply looking for a way to do this. They jumped to the conclusion that the claimant had committed gross misconduct.

Ms Sinelnikova issued a grievance against the company in December 2017, accusing them of sex discrimination. She further accused the company of potential criminal offences relating to compliance with financial conduct laws.

When asked to clarify her accusation Ms Sinelnikova told the panel that the CEO at the Bulgarian office, Alex Pusco, had commented while complaining about the length of maternity leave, that women should stay at home and cook.

Also, in 2017 Pusco had shown her and other employees an advert by Aston Martin where used cars had scantily clad women in provocative poses. Pucso said that she and other women in the London office needed to be ‘more sexy.’

The tribunal found the advert both offensive and degrading to women.

In February 2018 Ms Sinelnikova resigned. ActivTrades, to prevent her making her claim, refused her access to personal data held on her work computer.

Ms Sinelnikova received a legal letter from the company in March 2018 accusing her of spending too much time running her eBay account from her work computer.

The company further claimed that she had stored illegal music files on her PC. The panel declared both accusations to be unfounded.

The tribunal ruled that the company was guilty of victimisation and unfair dismissal and had gone out of their way to damage her career irreparably, because she had raised the matter of sex discrimination.

ActivTrades, the tribunal ruled, had caused a high level of injury to Ms Sinelnikova’s feelings over an extended period by malicious actions. This treatment had affected almost every aspect of her life.

Ms Sinelnikova was awarded £75.510 in compensation. This included £40,000 for injury to feelings.

The company was ordered to pay the maximum fine of £5,000 for breaches of employment law.

Hari Raithatha, legal officer at UK whistleblowing charity Protect reported that they had examined the treatment of 352 whistle-blowers in the financial sector of the City.

70% of whistle-blowers had suffered from bullying, harassment, and victimisation, highlighting the damning picture of whistleblowing in this sector.

The report further highlighted the reasons why Protect called for a statutory duty on companies to address whistle-blowers and their victimisation as early as possible.

Ms Raithatha agreed that rather than address Ms Sinelnikova’s concerns, the company had taken ‘deliberate steps to victimise her and undermine her by threatening to take legal action against her.’

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