'No babies' solicitor settles her sex discrimination claim
A female solicitor who claimed that her boss did not want her to have a relationship or to have babies, has settled her claim.
Kate Baker told an employment tribunal this year 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 solicitor alleged that she was sacked from Follett Stock because she had started a relationship.
In her statement to the Exeter tribunal judge Christopher Carstairs, Miss Baker, who earned £45,000 a year, outlined a culture of bullying at the firm.
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"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.
"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 that, in her first two weeks at the firm, working out of their office in Truro, she saw one woman reduced to tears by her boss and claimed Mr Lingard also shouted at another woman about swapping desks.
In her statement Miss Baker claimed that she was expected to undertake weekend marketing activities for the firm because she was single with no children unlike her married male partners with families.
She said: "I am of the opinion 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, a Business Director at Follet Stock) which says 'He (Lingard) does say he doesn't want you in a relationship!'"
Miss Baker accused the firm of bullying, oppression, and a lack of 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," she said.
Guy Hollebon, who represented the firm at the hearing, argued that the company's defence should be allowed even though it had missed the tribunal's deadline. He said Miss Baker's bullying and harassment claims were denied.
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 full hearing into Miss Baker's claims of sexual harassment, sexual discrimination and unfair dismissal will not now go ahead after the case was settled out of court.
Follett Stock did not respond to a request for a comment on the settlement.