Law firms should be required to have sexual harassment and alcohol consumption policies, MPs have been told by a former magic circle employee, who says they were sexually assaulted by a partner at their firm.
The suggestion is part of an anonymised written submission made by a member of the public to the House of Commons women and equalities select committee as part of its sexual harassment in the workplace inquiry. It was published on the committee's website last week.
The witness says they were sexually assaulted by a partner while they were a junior lawyer in the same team. 'Throughout my own experience of reporting an incident of sexual misconduct, it was clear that the firm was not prepared for, and lacking in the relevant expertise, to deal with a complaint of such a serious nature. I am unable to provide further specific detail or examples, given that the investigation into the firm's handling of my complaint is continuing.' The submission states that the incident was reported to the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
The witness says policies on sexual harassment and acceptable alcohol consumption at work and work-related events should be mandatory for all firms. 'There is a particular need for thorough and detailed policies in large City firms, where there is a culture of excessive consumption of alcohol, and where incidents of sexual misconduct are rife,' the witness adds.
The witness says they felt compelled to agree to a confidentiality undertaking so they could access details on the outcome of their complaint. They say complainants should never be compelled to sign an undertaking or non-disclosure agreement in sexual misconduct cases.
Meanwhile, in a separate submission published last week, the Crown Prosecution Service is accused of conducting a 'dishonest and manipulative' complaints process by a former employee.
The witness says they were assaulted by a colleague, who was subsequently charged with indecent assault and found guilty following a Crown court trial. However, she says that, for the next 20 years, she was subjected to sexual harassment, sexual discrimination and victim-blaming at work. She was told she had 'ruined a young lawyer's career' and she received pornography in the internal post.
The witness says the CPS 'had a lengthy grievance procedure that looked impressive on paper, but the reality was that the aim was not to listen and learn from complaints but to protect the employer'. The Gazette has approached the CPS for comment.
Following her own experience, the witness suggests that anonymity for victims of sex crimes should be extended to employment tribunals.
A CPS spokesperson said: 'We have robust policies and procedures in place in order to deal with performance and conduct issues in line with Cabinet Office requirements and UK employment law. Any issues concerning CPS employees and their conduct at work are addressed by line managers in line with our HR procedures. We cannot comment on individual employment issues.'
The committee, which began its inquiry in February, is due to publish a report soon.