Grey haired banker was not unfairly dismissed despite nickname

A banker has lost her discrimination claim after jokes about her grey hair were described by a judge as “part of the irritation of day-to-day office life”. She was made redundant after her employer noted that she had only brought in roughly a fifth of the business secured by her counterpart over the previous year.

Elisabeth Maugars joined the London office of Deutsche Bank in 2015 as managing director of one of the company’s lending departments. She was aged 52 and had 35 years’ experience in the banking industry. She earned an annual salary of £295,000. During the covid pandemic, she was asked to donate a month of her salary to help with cost-cutting but chose to decline. She was made redundant after her bosses noted that her US counterpart had generated £29 million in business over the previous year while she had brought in £6 million. Maugars sued the German bank for £4.6 million. She claimed she had been the victim of “a culture of sexism and ageism” and bullying by colleagues before being made redundant. She explained that fellow bankers had nicknamed her Christine Lagarde — a reference to the president of the European Central Bank who, like Maugars, is French and has grey hair.

However, the Employment Tribunal ruled in favour of Deutsche Bank. Judge Bernice Elgot said that being called Christine Lagarde was “part of the irritation of day-to-day office life which occasionally occurs”. She also noted that the comparison with Lagarde was not offensive, nor was it an indication of a culture of discrimination against older women. Maugars had not made a complaint about the nickname until after she was made redundant, and “none of those involved with her redundancy called her by the nickname”. The tribunal ruled that the bank needed fewer employees and Maugars had been “fairly and reasonably selected for redundancy”.

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