A city worker is suing her former employers for sexual harassment, alleging her boss repeatedly invited her back to his hotel room after a boozy office party.
Executive director Frederic Michel-Verdier, 50, is said to have leered at Nathalie Abildgaard, 27: ‘If I was 20 years younger, I would have been all over you’, the Sunday Times reported.
Later that night he suggested she should go to his hotel room ‘so we could have fun’, before sending her messages including one with his room number and a smiling emoji.
Michel-Verdier, who is married, has been disciplined by his employers for ‘miuse of alcohol’ over the incident. He denies the allegations.
He later sent texts including one with his hotel room number and a smiley face.
The pair from Australian fund managers IFM were at an office party in Madrid.
Michel-Verdier denies the allegations but has been reprimanded by the firm.
Nathalie Abildgaard, 27, is asking her former employer for a slice of the bonus she would have earned in full had she stayed at the firm longer. She claims her boss sexually harassed her at a work party.
The alleged exchanges took place in a Madrid nightclub in March last year, where the pair and their team from IFM Investors, an Australian fund management firm with an office in Gresham Street, London, were celebrating closing a deal.
The paper reported that in a witness statement, Amelia McArdle, IFM’s global head of people and culture, said Mr Michel-Verdier ‘stated that he was stunned’ when told about the allegations.
‘He said he had no recollection of having sent messages, or the content of those messages,’ McArdle said in the document.
‘He explained that there had been a lot of drinking over the course of the evening … and stated that while he may have made some bad jokes, he did not intend any wrongdoing.’
IFM said it had investigated the claims after Ms Abildgaard left the company in April of last year, and concluded that while Michel-Verdier sending his room number breached its code of conduct, the firm ‘felt we could not reasonably conclude that there had also been verbal unwanted and physical advances.’
The message, and another incident, earned Michel-Verdier a reprimand for ‘misuse of alcohol’. He had his bonus cut and has even been banned from drinking at company events for 12 months.
When Abildgaard left IFM she asked the company to pay her a pro rata percentage of her bonus, for the proportion of the year she had worked. she claimed she had intended to leave the company later in the year having received her bonus in full.
But IFM rejected her request on the grounds that the incident was not ‘of such a nature that it in effect forced Nathalie to resign’.
Speaking to The Sunday Times, Ms Abildgaard declined to comment on the specific allegations against Michel-Verdier but said the process of taking legal action had been both ‘very isolating and incredibly stressful’.
She added: ‘Apart from the money, it’s also incredibly time-consuming and it wears on you,’ she said.
Ms Abildgaard is suing both her former boss and her former employers – IFM Investors, an Australian fund management firm with an office in Gresham Street, London.
Later today, she will launch a charity to help employees who have suffered workplace discrimination.
Legal Aid for Business Diversity, which has the backing of the Labour MP Jess Phillips, is intended to help ‘level the playing field’ for individuals taking on their employer, providing them with financial support.
She said the charity was not saying everyone should sue their employer, but that ‘if you want to do it, it shouldn’t be the money that prevents you.’
Abildgaard called her legal battle a ‘David and Goliath fight’, on which she has already spent £50,000, and accused IFM’s lawyers of trying to ‘drown’ her ‘in litigation’.
IFM Investors, which manages about £52bn in assets, told the paper: ‘IFM Investors takes allegations of workplace misconduct extremely seriously … We will move swiftly to address any identified shortcomings in the culture in our workplace.’
Source: Daily Mail.