Lawyer at Truro firm Follett Stock settles out of court after claims boss Chris Lingard did not want her to have relationship
A female solicitor at a top Truro legal firm who claimed that her bullying boss did not want her to have a relationship or to have babies, has settled her claim out of court
Kate Baker told an employment tribunal she was sent a text message from the wife of boss Chris Lingard reiterating his view that he wanted her to stay single.
The 33-year-old lawyer alleged that she was sacked from law firm Follett Stock because of her gender after she formed a relationship.
In her statement to the Exeter tribunal judge Christopher Carstairs, Miss Baker outlined a culture of bullying by Mr Lingard which included workers not being able to talk for four hours a day.
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The £45,000-a-year lawyer said in her statement:"The Respondent has stated in their response that while 'striving for legal excellence' it adopts 'an informal and lighthearted approach'.
"In my experience this is completely untrue. Employees are not allowed to talk between the hours of 9am-1pm and they call this 'golden time'.
"Employees are often criticised by Mr Lingard...and the Respondent does not adopt an 'informal and lighthearted approach'."
Miss Baker, from Budleigh Salterton, Devon, qualified as a solicitor in 2004 and had been handling her own caseload since being a trainee.
She said in her first two weeks at the firm working out of their Truro office, she saw one woman reduced to tears by her boss and claimed Mr Lingard, a thalidomide victim, also shouted at another female about swapping desks.
She said:"In my career I have never been told by a colleague or supervising partner that my work is 'shit'. The treatment came out of the blue. Mr Lingard awarded me a prize in December 2011 after only being at the firm two months (and when I was single).
"He then took to berating me for 1.5 hours and attempted to dismiss me by e mail whilst I was off sick with work related stress and harassment (caused by the Respondent).
"I am of the opinon that Mr Lingard believed he lost control when I started a relationship and this was the true reason for dismissal."
The tribunal judge read her statement which stated:"Mr Lingard on many occasions told me that he did not want me in a relationship or to have babies.
"I have a text message from Mr Lingard's wife (Fiona Higgins who is a business director at Follet Stock) which says 'he (Lingard) does say he doesn't want you in a relationship!!!"
She accused the firm of 'a culture of bullying, oppression, and lack of good systems and support for the employees...'
"I went from being awarded prizes and being told I was brilliant and the leader of the Exeter office, to being downtrodden and having my confidence sapped within the space of a few months."
Guy Hollebon, who represented the firm at the Exeter hearing, argued that the company's defence should be allowed even though it was after the deadline.
And he said Miss Baker's bullying and harassment claims were denied.
Mr Hollebon said some important clients were impressed with Miss Baker and 'seemed to like you' and 'were a real hit with him' but denied this was to do with her gender.
Barrister James Bax, for Miss Baker, said a firm that specialises in litigation and employment law and 'strives for excellence', should not have filed their defence late.
Yesterday it was revealed that a six-day hearing into Miss Baker's claims of sexual harassment, sexual discrimination and unfair dismissal due to start in Exeter this week will not now go ahead after the case was settled out of court.