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A UK banker was awarded R43 million in damages after she found a witch hat on her desk

Business Insider US
Stacey Macken sued BNP Paribas for victimization and sex discrimination. REUTERS/Charles Platiau
Stacey Macken sued BNP Paribas for victimization and sex discrimination. REUTERS/Charles Platiau
  • Stacey Macken sued BNP Paribas for sex discrimination and victimisation after finding a witch's hat on her desk. 
  • A UK court accepted her claim and awarded her the equivalent of R43 million in damages. 
  • The judge said she increased the damages because BNP Paribas failed to adequately apologise to Macken.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

A banker has been awarded the equivalent of some R43 million damages for victimisation and sex discrimination after she found a witch's hat on her desk.

The award, to Stacey Macken, a 50-year-old former employee of the French investment bank BNP Paribas, is thought to be among the largest handed out at a UK employment tribunal.

Macken found a "large Halloween-style black witch's hat" in front of her computer after arriving at work one morning, according to evidence presented to and accepted by the court. Macken's former personal assistant told the court that the hat appeared overnight after male colleagues returned to the office drunk the prior evening. Upon finding the hat, Macken was said by her personal assistant to be visibly upset, the court heard.

Macken told the court she was subjected to disparaging comments from male colleagues. In her witness statement, she described how one of her bosses regularly dismissed her with the phrase "Not now Stacey." The phrase was used so regularly that it was picked up by other colleagues and appeared in group messages, according to an earlier ruling.

According to the compensation ruling, Macken has been receiving treatment for mild anxiety and depressive disorder since 2018, when she was signed off from work at BNP Paribas.

The compensation ruling came after Macken won her case in 2019. In the case, she also argued she was paid considerably less than male colleagues.

The judge ruled that BNP Paribas must pay Macken $2.8 million. The judge said she increased the award because BNP Paribas failed to adequately apologise to Macken.

"It is time that these big corporates got their house in order and realise that it is no longer acceptable to pay men more for jobs of equal value or discriminate by paying them higher bonuses for no good reason," Macken told the FT

A BNP Paribas spokesperson told Insider that the bank "fell short" of its duty to Macken and was considering the ruling.

In recent years, the financial industry has been forced to come to terms with a culture of sexism that many women say they have experienced. Like firms in many sectors, banks are working to address historic pay gaps and a lack of diversity at senior levels — but have yet to make significant progress.

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