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Sexism and the City

Julie Mellor, Chair of the UK's Equal Opportunities Commission, yesterday sent a warning to firms to tackle what she called "the significant problem" of sexism in the City amid a number of high profile discrimination cases involving bankers and lawyers.14 Jul 2004

"Companies need to look at how they recruit people, how they promote and how they credit success," said Mellor, adding that companies need to expel their "macho culture" and "the culture of secrecy about pay".

The EOC is currently supporting the case of Andrea Madarassy, a former Senior Banker with Nomura International, who began her appeal yesterday against an Employment Tribunal decision that largely favoured the Japanese bank.

Ms Madarassy had claimed that, while pregnant, she had been reprimanded for not skipping lunch and required to report to her manager every time she had to leave her desk due to morning sickness. She said she was "abused and humiliated" and made effectively demoted on her return from maternity leave. She said her boss described maternity leave as "pissing off".

The Employment Tribunal ruled that there had been sex discrimination by the Japanese bank for failure to carry out a risk assessment when Ms Madarassy was pregnant and on her return from maternity leave; but she lost the main part of her £1 million case.

The Employment Tribunal found that there was "an equality of shouting" towards all staff of either gender and dismissed her claim that she was given a smaller bonus than her male colleagues, and was effectively demoted on her return on maternity leave.

With the EOC's support, Ms Madarassy's case came before the Employment Appeals Tribunal yesterday. The hearing is due to end tomorrow, but the EOC says a decision could take weeks or months.

Ms Madarassy's case follows Monday's news that Morgan Stanley has agreed to pay $54 million to settle hundreds of cases from women employed by its New York offices. The allegations included unfair pay, groping by male colleagues and being sent strippers or breast-shaped birthday cakes in the office. Yesterday, Merrill Lynch paid a figure reported to be between £500,000 and £1 million to settle a case brought by a solicitor over comments made by a colleague at a Christmas lunch about her breasts and her sex life.

The EOC's Julie Mellor has warned companies that "shareholders need to know that their money is being used to boost success through rewarding genuinely talented employees - not just a favoured few. "