Baker McKenzie has been taken to court by a junior solicitor who claimed that her supervising partner told her a story about his "f***buddy" during a performance review, and announced at a staff party that he would not work with women if he could avoid it.

The victim, a banking and finance lawyer whom RollOnFriday shall call 'Zarlik', joined Baker McKenzie's Istanbul office in 2012. The firm fired her in 2014 after, she said, a campaign of harassment orchestrated by the head of her team to make her quit. Because he was not identified in public court documents, RollOnFriday will refer to the partner as 'Mergen'.

The Istanbul court heard that Mergen told Zarlik at her annual review that he was awarding her 2/5 for an element of her performance because she said 'no' to him too often. “Since you would like to know me", he said, "let me tell you an anecdote about my personal life". He then told her that one Friday night in his university days he invited over a "sex partner" (he denied using the term "fuck buddy"), but because the woman responded “we’ll see”, he refused to acknowledge her when she kept the appointment, "because nobody can tell me 'no' or 'we’ll see''".

At a staff dinner Mergen announced the name of Zarlik's old firm and said he was “sick" of its"ferocious women”. He continued that he "did not like or wish to work with women", that "women became brutal" in management positions and that "he would not work with women if he could".

 

 

    'Mergen' (identity obscured for legal reasons.) 


Bakers argued that it should not be a defendant because it was insufficiently linked to its local member firm at which Mergen worked. But the Turkish court rejected its attempt to distance itself from the disagreeable Turk. It ruled that Mergen's behaviour was "unsuitable, harassing and degrading" and referred the case to a lower court to assess damages. It rejected Zarlik's claim that Bakers staff had 'mobbed' her (the Turkish crime of group bullying).

Specifying that his statement should be attributed to 'Baker McKenzie local affiliate Esin Attorney Partnership', and not 'Baker McKenzie' which is totally different actually and would honestly struggle to point to Turkey on a map, a spokesman said, "This Turkish court case relating to a matter in 2014 was about mobbing, not sexual harassment. The higher court's decision confirmed there was no sexual harassment, no mobbing and no gender discrimination involved. Its decision refers the question of inappropriate behaviour – such as inappropriate personal anecdotes and bad language by a local partner - back to the court of first instance".

He said, "We took this matter very seriously at the time and conducted an internal investigation. We found some general statements and anecdotes made by the partner to be inappropriate. Strong remedial measures were imposed as we do not tolerate inappropriate behaviour. It has been dealt with in an entirely open and transparent manner, and does not involve any non-disclosure agreements, or any financial settlements of any kind". 

The firm declined to describe the sanctions it imposed on the partner. The news comes during a growing scandal at Bakers after the firm covered up a sexual assault committed by a senior partner, revealed by RollOnFriday in January.

 

 

Tip Off ROF

Comments

Anonymous 16 February 18 06:02

Thanks RoF for covering Turkey. I assume BM tried to misinform you. Let me clarify a few issues: I have read the court ruling and it is explicit from court ruling that the solicitor did not resign but terminated because of complaining about this partner's harassive behaviour She filed re-employment case and she also won it. Th high court decision refers to this re-employment case as well.

Anonymous 16 February 18 07:42

To anon at 00.15, I think you’ll find a lot of women will consider that news. Bakers sounds like a dire place if they think this is just “inappropriate language”, just coz it happened somewhere forrin

Anonymous 16 February 18 08:43

If these statements are not considered gender discrimination then what is gender discrimination?? How on earth can Baker Mckenzie keep a partner that does not like working with women and state in a public trial that he won't work with women if he could avoid. This is unbelievable!!

Anonymous 16 February 18 09:17

I read this court ruling (it is basically a hot topic nowadays) and can confirm what the anon comment of 06:02 states. B&M a.k.a. Esin's comments do not reflect the exact truth. According to the ruling, the claimant solicitor was terminated by B&M because she raised complaints against the Istanbul B&M partner. The solicitor has also won the unjust termination case against the firm.

Anonymous 16 February 18 09:24

Looks like proper news to me, particularly for a firm that suggests its a great place for women to develop their careers

Anonymous 16 February 18 09:27

Baker McKenzie, the largest global firm, marketing global character all the time, cannot locate Turkey on the map? Is it a lawyer who fails short of doing that? I am not sure if your global clients knew this. A highly connected network as it seems! Highly intellectual too. In Turkish there is a saying: "the excuse is worse than the fault".




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Anonymous 16 February 18 09:57

As far as I know Baker Mckenzie signed UN Women's Empowerment Principles. They should be out right away.

Roll On Friday 16 February 18 10:06

The fact that these people can't locate Turkey on a map speaks volumes about the state of the legal "profession".

Anonymous 16 February 18 10:20

3dux ROF is making a joke about how Bakers is trying to distance itself from this. It presumably (?) could find Turkey

Anonymous 16 February 18 12:04

As they declined to describe sanctions, it is obvious that no sanction has been imposed at all! I'm pretty confident that he is still working at Baker.

Anonymous 16 February 18 12:42

I've read the Turkish court judgment and the actual translation of what he said at the office dinner was not that he was "sick of the ferocious women of the other firm" but that he was "sick of its horny women".

B&M's claim that the matter has been dealt with internally is also bull. The partner in question is still head of his dept so obviously he hasn't been affected at all while the innocent female junior's name and reputation has been dragged through the mud. Hopefully the publication of the ruling and the public backlash will change that, although I won't hold my breath - B&M in Istanbul already had a reputation for this kind of behaviour. The female partners should hang their heads in shame.

Anonymous 16 February 18 12:50

anon @12.42, I think that should read that ALL partners should hang their heads in shame.

Anonymous 16 February 18 13:30

Having kept Mergen, the Baker Mckenzie fully endorsed his mentality and behaviour. It must be a relief to know for the harassers in that firm that they won't be fired for "just this".

Anonymous 16 February 18 14:28

:)what a man and what a global firm!:) Wont those Turks were somewhere arooooouuuunnnndddd???!!!+++^^???///&&%%++^^^^???()/&%+^'!=)(&%????.China!!!

Anonymous 16 February 18 15:27

To anon at 07:42: I think you'll find that should be "people" not "women". Neither misogyny nor misandry have any place in modern society.

Anonymous 18 February 18 20:41

What an upsetting incident. Still, I don’t see how this can be qualified more than a bad behavior. I wish BM team had disclosed the measures that they claim to have taken. Shouldn’t have happened anyways..!

Anonymous 19 February 18 08:14

I have been informed by a colleague in BM Istanbul that, the partner has even been proposed to be appointed as managing partner in the upcoming July despite the fact that Baker was aware of this lawsuit and even his acknowledment of all these statements against women at a public hearing. It is obvious that all these announcements of Baker related to Diversity, LGBTI rights, supporting women in working environment does not go beyond commercial advertisement materials.

Anonymous 19 February 18 08:23

Shame on Bakers trying to defend that outrageous partner.
What's the local bar doing about this anyway?

Anonymous 19 February 18 09:46

Getting a promotion? What kind of a sanction is this? Not so uncommon to Baker though:(

Anonymous 20 February 18 07:46

To anon 08:14;

Not really sure where you got that information but that doesn’t sound too right to me. It’s public information that the firm has only one managing partner -who happens to be the owner-, which makes it quite hard for the accused –who had been a partner all along- to get promoted, don’t you think? See, it is these kind of small details that undermines the credibility of a story, relegating it to the status of an office gossip. Please make sure you get your facts rights while commenting over such a delicate and sensitive issue. SMH...

Anonymous 21 February 18 05:16

To anon 07:46

Are you basically suggesting -in Bakers terms- there are no other principal partners in the firm than the owner himself? That Mergen was not a candidate for principal? Come on...

Anonymous 26 February 18 07:03

Baker continuing to brush things under the carpet, especially when it comes to its overseas offices. I know bakers and can say that this is just the tip of the iceberg! This will others courage to speak up.Thank you ROF for highlighting the issue.

Anonymous 27 February 18 13:47

Looks like the local Turkish press is finally also interested on this issue. According to the large Turkish newspaper/channel Haberturk's news of 26 February, assuming that Haberturk refers to the same Bakers ruling of the Turkish high court referred to here (very little doubt), the name of the senior attorney/partner claimed to have sexually harrased the junior attorney is M.K. Just a quick look at Bakers' Istanbul office esin attorney partnership's website reveals only one person whose initials are M.K., who is still referred to as a partner of the firm. Not so surprising anymore if such news come from a Bakers office.

Anonymous 27 February 18 15:53

One of the main stream media group Haberturk made news about this case. Except for Baker no-one evaluates these instances as inappropriate behavior. Even the title of this news is “The High Court Did Not Accept Sexual Harassment as Mobbing”.

The silence from Baker side proves that this partner is still working.

Anonymous 27 February 18 20:06

Looks like it’s also in local Turkish news: https://www.google.com.tr/amp/m.haberturk.com/isyerinde-cinsel-taciz-mobing-sayilmadi-1853964-amp