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AIG trainee wins victimisation case after claiming ‘unconscious bias’

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead & Burton

In the case of Ms J Nyeko v AIG Asset Management (Europe) Limited, Ms Nyeko commenced employment with AIG on 30 July 2018, shortly after finishing university, as an Investments Apprentice/Investments Analyst. She was one of three graduates in the UK who joined AIG’s Investments team for a two-year Global Analysts Programme. Her line manager was Brenda Monaghan who set out her key requirements of Ms Nyeko, which included all work deadlines being met and not being late for meetings.

On 7 January 2020, Ms Monaghan met with Ms Nyeko and reviewed her work. She advised her that she expected to see more output from her in the following week. On 9 January 2020 another Managing Director on the same floor as Ms Nyeko emailed Ms Monaghan saying that she had arrived late for work, disappeared for most of the morning and had then gone for lunch. She said, “It has been noticed and a topic of conversation.”

Ms Monaghan met Ms Nyeko on 22 January. At the outset, they discussed the work which she had completed in the preceding week. Ms Nyeko then told Ms Monaghan that she was concerned that there was “unconscious bias” against her in the team, as she was not being included or being tasked with completing interesting work. She also said that she felt the team needed unconscious bias training and that she hoped to set up an internal Employee Resources Group with the goal of supporting black employees and offering unconscious bias training.

Ms Monaghan ‘shut down’ Miss Nyeko and ‘effectively told her race discrimination doesn’t exist’ on her team, saying it had ‘a number of women’ and ‘one Indian’. Miss Nyeko was later sacked for gross misconduct over her absences, failing to do work required and claiming for pay on days she had not worked.

The tribunal concluded Miss Nyeko was victimised when she complained of unconscious bias as Ms Monaghan had a ‘continuing negative attitude’ towards her. But it ruled AIG Europe did not wrongfully dismiss Miss Nyeko, as claiming for pay on days she did not work was ‘sufficiently serious’ to warrant dismissal. Miss Nyeko will be awarded compensation for victimisation at a later date.

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