A woman who filed a sexual harassment case against her employer was allegedly told by a Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) lawyer the case would end her career.
City finance associate Nathalie Abildgaard was awarded £270,000 in April after settling a sexual harassment case against her employer IFM Investors. However Abilgaard wrote in a submission to the Women and Equalities Committee a HSF lawyer had engaged in ‘aggressive and intimidating behaviour.’
Although not named in the document, the firm confirmed that employment partner Andrew Taggart has since been reported to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
The written evidence details how Taggart had allegedly stressed to Abildgaard’s lawyer that if she stood in the witness box her career in the City’s finance industry would be effectively over. In her submission Abildgaard accuses Taggart of using words to the effect of: ‘If Nathalie goes on the witness stand tomorrow, her and her partner’s credibility will be so shuddered they will never be able to work in the financial industry in London again.’ Taggart was alleged to have concluded that ‘Nathalie is toast.’
Although Abildgaard reported Taggart to the SRA in January over his handling of the defence of her claims, Taggart has not yet been contacted by the SRA.
In a statement, HSF said: ‘We are aware that Ms Abildgaard has made a complaint to the SRA. This process is at its early stages and we will be fully co-operating with the SRA.’
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the SRA said: ‘We are aware of the situation and getting all the relevant evidence in place.’
Abildgaard’s case was settled without the controversial use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) which have recently received increased scrutiny. A report by the Women and Equalities Committee on discrimination and harassment in the workplace published yesterday (11 June) condemned the ‘routine cover-up’ of discrimination allegations by employers.
Currently the SRA is investigating 19 cases related to the use of NDAs and 13 cases related to sexual harassment.