Traders and managers at Standard Chartered wolf-whistled at one of its senior in-house lawyers and told her white people were more civilised, according to a claim she is bringing against the bank for sexual and racial harassment.
The British, black lawyer, who earned more than £13,000 a month as a senior legal counsel in one of the multinational bank's Middle Eastern branches, is taking her claim to the UK Employment Tribunal. RollOnFriday is not naming 'Ngozi', who was employed by Standard Chartered for four years.
According to information passed to RollOnFriday, at a drinks event in 2014 a head of department put his hand in Ngozi's braids and, when she protested, told her words to the effect that ‘I can do what I like because I'm your boss'. Ngozi raised a grievance, however the man was subsequently promoted. The bank conceded that there had been an "incident", but denied that it had failed to take Ngozi's complaint seriously.
On another occasion a staff member wolf-whistled at Ngozi on the trading floor. When Ngozi raised concerns that her subsequent complaint was not treated seriously, the bank argued that it had taken sufficient action by speaking to the whistler about his conduct.
The bank also turned a blind eye to racial harassment perpetrated by a manager, ’Cleo’, according to Ngozi's claim. When the pair went out for lunch, Cleo allegedly told Ngozi that she was happy to be working in the Middle Eastern city's banking district because it meant she was "around white people", and then said "yay civilisation”. According to allegations seen by RollOnFriday, Cleo continued by speaking to Ngozi in Ebonics, confessing that she and her husband had discussed Ngozi's bum and that he was keen to meet her, and suggesting that Ngozi, who wore her hair in an afro style at the time, "wouldn’t know what conditioner felt like".
RollOnFriday understands that an HR manager's report suggested Ngozi "open[ed] the door" to race-based comments by "initially [bringing] up the subject of heritage". The HR manager cited an occasion when Ngozi congratulated Cleo after Cleo's national team won a game in the World Cup, but was offended when Cleo replied by asking if Ngozi supported England or an African nation. Standard Chartered is understood to have partially upheld Ngozi's complaint, but Cleo was subsequently promoted into a position where she became Ngozi's line manager.
The bank is also accused of protecting three managers in the bank's compliance function who allegedly leaked details of Ngozi’s racial harassment grievance to other members of her team and to colleagues in other offices around the world, and by initiating an investigation into Ngozi's tone and performance which concluded that she should take communication training. As a result of the alleged harassment, discrimination and victimisation, Ngozi stopped attending work in July 2018. After relations with the bank broke down, she was dismissed, her visa was cancelled and her back account with Standard Chartered was blocked.
Earlier this year the bank's head of compliance, Neil Barry, left the bank after a disciplinary investigation into multiple harassment complaints from co-workers found that his behaviour, managerial style and language were “inappropriate”.
Both Ngozi and Standard Chartered declined to comment.