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City banker loses sex discrimination case after colleagues called her a ‘ladette’ and male boss asked her to babysit

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead & Burton

In the case of Ms Z Wei v Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce Zhuofang Wei, a ‘highly regarded’ executive complained about an office ‘quote book’ in which amusing sexually suggestive comments were recorded and then voted on at Christmas parties – with the winner being awarded a trophy. However, this complaint was dismissed after Ms Wei, who earned £175,000 a year, admitted she had joined in and the tribunal ruled that was a ‘willing participant’.

Ms Wei, who was educated at top US universities Princeton and Stanford, also insisted she had been ‘belittled’ when boss Wayne Lee called her his ‘little sister’. She complained that Mr Lee, a managing director at the bank, was being ‘tokenistic’ when he nominated her for an important role.

And she alleged he had discriminated against her by asking her to babysit, moaned about him reprimanding her, and complained that he was ‘dismissive’ of her when he disagreed with her at a meeting.

But a judge dismissed all her discrimination claims, branding her ‘oversensitive’ and an ‘unreliable witness’ who sometimes ’embellished or distorted the truth’.

Although Ms Wei was found to have been sexually harassed when colleagues called her a ‘ladette’ and ‘one of the boys’ she won’t receive compensation as the panel concluded she had brought the claim too late.

The hearing was told there were ‘elements’ of CIBC’s branch in London which were ‘degrading’ to women but these were ‘office banter and loose language’.

“I am very disappointed the employment tribunal reached the conclusion that they had,” Wei said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg. “I wanted to be able to tell my story because in my career I have known so many women who suffered unfair treatment but were not as privileged as I am to be able to bring their claim before an employment tribunal.”

“CIBC is firmly committed to having a culture of care for our clients, our communities, and importantly for our own team, and it is expected that each of us foster an inclusive, respectful and equitable workplace,” a spokesperson for the bank said.

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