01 November 2018

The SRA will prosecute Dentons at the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal after a cover-up by its HR team unravelled during a discrimination case which it lost. As a relief to the firm, RollOnFriday understands that none of the individuals criticised in last year's tribunal decision will have any further action against them by the SRA.

In 2017 an Employment Tribunal found Dentons guilty of discriminating against, and unfairly dismissing, recruitment manager Bina Hale because she was on maternity leave. During the hearing, it emerged that when Dentons learned that Hale was going to sue, HR manager Suzanne Barnes replaced her handwritten notes of crucial meetings with typed versions. "One has to ask oneself, why would she do that?" said the tribunal. "Was she hiding something?"

Emma Rowe, Dentons' UK head of HR, produced what she claimed were contemporaneous notes or a critical meeting. However they were written on white paper, not the brown-tinted paper used in her Dentons notebooks. The date of the meeting was wrong and, "extraordinarily", said the tribunal, mirrored the incorrect date from Barnes' record. "None of this is credible", found the tribunal, which decided that Rowe actually created her note retrospectively.

Spinning yarn
Dentons staff spinning a yarn

The Dentons partner in charge of Bale's office was also criticised. Andrew Harris' attempts to walk back positive comments he made about Hale's performance were judged "unconvincing and lacking in credibility". In a crushing judgment, the tribunal said that Dentons' witnesses demonstrated a "lack of honesty", and that neither Rowe nor Barnes were credible witnesses. 

The SRA has now concluded its investigation into the matter. A SRA spokesman told RollOnFriday that he could not provide a comment. However, RollOnFriday has had sight of an email from an SRA investigation officer which stated "we have decided to prosecute Dentons at the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal".

A spokesman for Dentons told RollOnFriday that the firm was "pleased" that the SRA had cleared the individuals from further investigation and prosecution, but was "disappointed" that the SRA is "considering" referring the firm to the disciplinary tribunal. Dentons is "a working environment free of discrimination" said the spokesman. He added that diversity, inclusion and "the highest standards of professionalism" are very important priorities for Dentons, and that the firm had reviewed its maternity policy "to ensure it is aligned with market best practice".

 

Tags
Tip Off ROF

Comments

Anonymous 02 Nov 18

Has this been reported to the CIPD?   HR tend to act as lackeys of management in discrimination and also harassment matters, either covering up valid complaints or upholding false accusations under the guise of 'taking complaints seriously'. They tend to start from the conclusion they want snd work backwards, instead of the other way around.

Anonymous 02 Nov 18

Emma Rowe, Dentons' UK head of HR, was wearing white trousers, rather than the brown-tinted trousers now considered de rigeur in her milieu.

Anon 02 Nov 18

I don't understand the SRA's logic. Surely it is the individuals that should be prosecuted. By taking action against Dentons it is saying that there is a case to be answered, based on the findings of the court against the (credibility) of the individuals. You expect integrity and honesty, not the opposite.    

ye gads 02 Nov 18

"disappointed" they were caught out so publicly - they should hang their heads in shame, admit the wrongdoing and reach a speedy disciplinary agreement with the SRA. Though I would be fascinated to see what costs the SRA can rack up on this one.

Warren 02 Nov 18

Love that 'spokesman' carrying on what's obviously a fine Denton's tradition.  He could be Trump's next Whitehouse Press Secretary.

3-ducks 02 Nov 18

She could have just written a pack of lies on brown paper (who has brown notepaper btw?) with the right date, and never have been caught. Bit silly really.

Anonymous 04 Nov 18

A firm of lawyers should and would have known better. It is a terrible example to others and is not great for the profession or indeed that firm. Why on earth did they take that approach ?

Anonymous 04 Nov 18

Why do we have (HR) they are the worst discriminators.  This is 2018 and we still have alot if discrimination.  Its not what you know it who you know is that right ? Worst still majority of firms are like that the law needs to change. 

Anonymous 09 Nov 18

This is nothing compared to the massive bullying/harassment/discrimination/constructive dismissal cover up going on at Fieldfisher. 

Please note that comments are subject to moderation.