Out of court settlement for female lawyer told to 'stay single' by boss
A female solicitor who claimed that her boss did not want her to have a relationship or to have babies, has settled her claim, it has emerged.
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 and they call this 'golden time'.
"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.
She also said she had witnessed telephone conversations where he was aggressive with staff and adopted a similar stance with former colleagues in the office.
In her statement Miss Baker also alleged that Mr Lingard criticised staff at the Exeter office for taking lunch, the way in which calls were taken, for the radio not being switched on, or in the right place or station,people leaving at 5pm, and for looking miserable or grumpy.
She also 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 alleged at a meeting last May she was berated by Mr Lingard who told her she was "s***".
She said: "In my career I have never been told by a colleague or supervising partner that my work is 's***'. The treatment came out of the blue.
"He attempted to dismiss me by email whilst I was off sick with work related stress and harassment (caused by the respondent).
"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 Exeter 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.
He said Miss Baker was told she was sacked for making mistakes which included failing to prepare for a hearing correctly. Mr Bax said that was "a delicious irony" because it was what Follett Stock had done with its defence to the tribunal.
Yesterday it was revealed that a full hearing into Miss Baker's claims of sexual harassment, sexual discrimination and unfair dismissal due to start in Exeter this week will not now go ahead after the case was settled out of court.
Despite being asked for a comment on the settlement, Follett Stock did not respond but had issued a previous statement.
In it the firm said:"Kate Baker...raised no complaint before her dismissal.
"Anyone who knows Follett Stock and our managing partner will recognise her attempted characterisation of our culture and of Chris Lingard as a grotesque distortion of reality.
"Chris is very conscious of discrimination being severely disabled himself. Of course we deny her allegations some of which are frankly laughable."