Macken v BNP Paribas: Employment tribunal awards over £2 million in sex discrimination case
A female banker, Stacey Macken, has been awarded over £2 million by the employment tribunal in a sex discrimination and equal pay claim.
Macken joined the Respondent, BNP Paribas, in 2013 after eight years at Deutsche Bank, where she was at a senior level. She was hired at BNP Paribas as a junior on a salary of £120,000, while a male colleague in the same role earned £160,000. In her first four years, her male colleague was paid more than £167,000 in bonuses compared to the £33,000 she received.
She also experienced a number of sexist incidents. Drunken male colleagues left a witch’s hat on her desk, which the tribunal noted was an ‘inherently sexist act’. Her superior, Denis Pihan, would routinely rebut her comments and questions with ‘not now Stacey’. This was so common Macken’s other colleagues also began picking up the habit. Another superior, Matthew Pinnock, would routinely answer the phone to friends by saying ‘’hi, f***face’ and ‘hi, sexy’. On one occasion, Pinnock discussed with Macken the ‘prostitution role play’ he had engaged in with his wife.
Macken made repeated internal complaints about her treatment, and eventually took her case to the tribunal, claiming direct sex discrimination, victimisation and unequal pay. She won her case in September 2019.
At the compensation hearing, the tribunal found Pihan and Pinnock had behaved ‘spitefully and vindictively’ and noted the bank’s failure to genuinely apologise. Macken argued that bringing the claim had tarnished her professional reputation with severe repercussions for her future career and earning potential.
The award of £2.08 million included £213,000 for personal injury; £860,000 for future earnings; and £123,000 in additional compensation. This total was subjected to a 20% Acas uplift of £317,000, and interest. The award is thought to be one of the highest ever handed down in the employment tribunal.
The award is surely vindication for the Claimant, who had been engaged in a years-long battle for justice (not to mention the years spent stuck in a toxic work environment). But the headline figure is in some ways deceptive, calculated based on an already very high salary. It is worth reflecting on that. Macken was paid a base salary of about £120,000 a year. What would the compensation be for, say, a shop clerk on £20,000 a year, facing similar sex discrimination? And, either way, is the award high enough to make this employer really question their ways?
Moreover, just bringing the claim took a significant toll on Macken, who has been essentially barred from working in her former industry and does not expect to be able to return to a similar position.
The fact is that if we want real change, employment tribunal claims can’t just be another ‘cost of doing business’, and we can’t simply depend on employees being willing to ruin their careers for justice.
This blog was written by Kendal Youngblood, Solicitor at didlaw.