Author: Jeremy Hodges
07 Aug 2008 | 05:38 | 57 comments
Shearman & Sterling has dismissed an associate in its London office after a vacation scheme student made a formal complaint about his behaviour during a night out.
The student, who has subsequently accepted a training contract position with another firm, lodged a formal complaint to Shearman alleging that she was taken to Soho strip club The Windmill by the associate last month. She claims that once inside the club the associate sexually harassed her.
An internal investigation at Shearman has resulted in the associate in question being dismissed for bringing the firm into disrepute, although it was unable to substantiate the harrassment claim.
A Shearman spokesperson told Legal Week: "A student on our UK summer vacation scheme lodged a complaint regarding the conduct of one of the firm's associates during an informal social evening outside the offices.
"Shearman & Sterling takes such matters very seriously and, following a full investigation in accordance with internal disciplinary procedures, the associate has now left the firm."
The alleged incident, which has sparked a debate about sexism and appropriate behaviour in the City, took place on Friday 18 July when a large group of Shearman employees were on an evening out visiting local bars. The student made a formal complaint once her placement had finished on 24 July, and the associate was fired last Friday (1 August).
While the firm has confirmed that it dismissed the associate, it does not accept liability for the alleged incident.
In a letter sent to the student, Shearman's global head of human resources, Marcus Franks, said: "Although we accept that the conduct displayed by the associate in taking you to The Windmill Club was deeply inappropriate, it was not a Shearman & Sterling organised event and we therefore accept no liability for what may have occurred."
The letter concluded: "We apologise for the experience that you had at Shearman & Sterling and wish you well."
The vac scheme student maintains that the event was organised by the firm with partners, associates and trainees all attending earlier on in the evening, before the group fragmented and the associate and the student went on to the strip club. She alleges that she did not realise what kind of club it was until she was inside.
One City employment partner told Legal Week: "There is a high chance that a tribunal would find that the firm is liable, as the incident could be deemed to have happened during the course of employment."The right decision - or an overreaction? Click here to have your say.
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