Ms Svetlana Lokhova, 33, worked for Russian bank Sberbank CIB (UK) Ltd until 2012, when she was resigned from her post after learning that colleagues referred to her as “mad Svetlana”, “crazy Miss Cokehead”, and was branded “crazy, mental, totally unstable, quite likely clinically bonkers” and “a major car crash”, and that her former line manager had made a number of offensive, derogatory and personal comments about her behind her back. Ms Lokhova’s claim came to the London Central Employment Tribunal last October and she was successful in her claims for direct sex discrimination and gender-related harassment.
After she won her Employment Tribunal claim, her case went through what is known as a “remedies” hearing earlier this year in order to determine what Ms Lokhova would be awarded as damages in her claim. It has now emerged that Ms Lokhova has been awarded £3.1 million by the Employment Tribunal as compensation for the discrimination against her, with this sum being composed of past and future loss of earnings, injury to feelings, psychiatric injury, and an award of aggravated damages.
The Employment Tribunal judgment commented that, in particular, it felt that an award of aggravated damages (which is only awarded in rare cases where the other side’s conduct has been “malicious, high-handed or oppressive”) was appropriate in the circumstances as Sberbank’s lawyers had, in the opinion of the Tribunal, attempted to ‘bully’ Ms Lokhova by cross-examining her on her alleged drug use. The Tribunal found that this allegation was “completely without foundation and should never had been put to her in cross-examination at the liability hearing. It was a deliberate, planned and unnecessary misuse of the proceedings, designed to put pressure on her and cause damage to her given that it was no doubt widely publicised.”
Ms Lokhova commented to the Evening Standard after the conclusion of the case: “The case has been a long, difficult and draining process which has all but taken over my life and those of people close to me. But more than three years after my ordeal began, I have found the one thing I was seeking — justice. No one should be subjected to the treatment and malicious slurs which were directed at me at Sberbank.”
Chris Hadrill, an employment solicitor at Redmans Solicitors, commented on the case: “This case shows that businesses should take every possible step they can to put in place measures to train their staff in their equality policies and promptly and fairly investigate any allegations of discrimination, harassment or victimisation in the workplace. A failure to properly train staff or properly address grievances can lead to – as it did here – extremely expensive, embarrassing, and time-consuming Employment Tribunal litigation.”