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Female lawyer discriminated against by City law firm after becoming pregnant

A lawyer has succeeded in her claim for discrimination against a City law firm after being denied a permanent role after becoming pregnant

Posted on 18 May 2013

A lawyer has succeeded in her claim for discrimination against a City law firm after she was denied a permanent role with the firm after becoming pregnant during the later stages of her training contract.

Katie Tantum succeeded in her claim for pregnancy discrimination against city law firm Travers Smith which was heard at Central London Employment Tribunal over 5 days in February 2013.

Elizabeth George from the Employment team at law firm Leigh Day, who represented Ms Tantum, said: “We are delighted for Katie. It takes courage and tremendous resilience to stand up to your employer, even more so when that employer is a leading city law firm and you are only just embarking on your legal career. All of the witnesses at the tribunal on behalf of Travers Smith were senior partners in that firm.

"The evidence in this case was very clear: Katie’s level of performance meant that she would have been offered a permanent role at Travers Smith but she was denied that role because she was pregnant."

The tribunal found that Travers Smith’s evidence relating to the discussions concerning Ms Tantum’s qualification was implausible and that the firm’s partners contrived to prevent Ms Tantum from being offered a post as a newly qualified solicitor because of her pregnancy.

Travers Smith itself considered Ms Tantum to be of a calibre suitable for a permanent role within the firm but it did not offer her one because of her pregnancy. The tribunal has made a number of recommendations for Travers Smith to put in place measures, which should help prevent it making such discriminatory decisions in the future.

Ms George said: “Travers Smith is not alone in respect of its attitude on such matters. Despite there being equal numbers of female and male law students taking up training places at City firms, women are still failing to progress to senior roles in anything like the numbers of their male colleagues.

“Only this month the Law Society Gazette reported that men are 10 times more likely than women to progress from trainee level to partner at major law firms. This is not just an equality issue, it is a poor business model because firms are wasting their initial investment and losing talent.”

In April The Lawyer magazine reported that out of 2013 partnership promotions there had been no progress on gender diversity at partnership level in the City and that male lawyers continue to earn almost 50% more than their average female counter-part.

The case is now listed for a remedy hearing in June to determine the question of what compensation should be awarded.