A City worker who brought a sexual harassment case to the tribunal has accused the firm that represented her employer of 'aggressive and intimidating behaviour'.
In written evidence to MPs who are conducting an inquiry into the Equality Act Nathalie Abildgaard says she was sexually harassed last year while working at IFM Investors. Her case was heard by an employment tribunal in London in January this year but the parties agreed to settle before the second hearing. In her evidence, published by the House of Commons women and equalities select committee, Abildgaard said she had to spend more than £100,000 in legal fees, take a year off work 'as well as withstand aggressive and intimidating behaviour by IFM Investors and their lawyers, Herbert Smith Freehills'.
In her evidence, Abildgaard states that on 17 January 2019, at around 9pm on the evening before she was due to be cross examined, a lawyer from HSF, whose name has been redacted, called her lawyer to say 'something to the effect of' that if she and her partner went on the witness stand, their credibility 'will be so shuddered they will never be able to work in the financial industry in London again and that "Nathalie is toast"'.
On 28 August 2018, Abildgaard said HSF wrote to her lawyers 'stating that unless I provided certain information about my new job, IFM Investors reserved the right to reach out to my new employer'.
Abildgaard said she has reported the alleged misconduct of IFM Investors and HSF to the regulators.
The committee, which today published a heavy hitting report on non-disclosure agreements in discrimination cases, announced last year that it would be looking at whether the Equality Act creates an unfair burden on individuals to enforce their right not to be discriminated.
Abildgaard told the committee that the cost of retaining solicitors is a barrier. Even though she was earning around £200,000 a year, had no dependents and no debt, she was 'only barely able to assume the cost' of bringing her case. She has set up a charity, Legal Aid for Business Diversity, dedicated to providing legal aid to victims of workplace discrimination.
In a statement, Herbert Smith Freehills 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 cooperating with the SRA.'
IFM Investors has been approached for comment.