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Fidelity defends harassment complaint as legal battle set to continue

Business-Corporate-Commuters-People-700x450.jpgAn internal investigation has found that a Fidelity International director did not bully or harass one of the firm’s employees.

Legal action could still continue, however, as both the employee and company contest each other’s claims.

Money Marketing reported last month that Fidelity had opened an investigation into a senior manager after an associate director for Fidelity’s UK pension unit operating out of India claimed she had been victimised by the firm.

The employee alleged that the manager made a number of inappropriate personal comments about her, including questioning why she wasn’t planning to get pregnant with a second child.

She also claims that the director, alongside others in the team, sent her abusive messages on WhatsApp, including at least one that questioned her sexuality.

After suffering from poor health due to a car crash, the employee further claims that she was asked to leave the company as a way for the director to get back at her for raising the complaint.

The results of an internal investigation seen by Money Marketing have now cleared the manager of wrongdoing. An investigator from Fidelity’s UK team flew to India to conduct interviews with the parties and witnesses involved. Thirteen potential witnesses were met with, the letter says, and email and WhatsApp messages were reviewed.

The report says that after having spoken to one of the other managers at Fidelity Investments in India, the reviewer has ruled that the complainant took at least some of the WhatsApp messages as a joke and shared them with positive emoticons, supporting witness evidence that the complainant “did not find it offensive at the time”.

The manager also contested that the conversation held in a taxi about having a second child was started by the employee, not her manager.

While the investigator says there is “no direct evidence to support either account… the subject of this conversation (whoever started it) could be seen to be a personal matter and inappropriate in the workplace, but does not constitute harassment or bullying.”

The employee says she repeatedly raised the behaviour of her manager with more senior staff. The investigator has said that after speaking with five other direct reports of the manager in question, while they recognised a “challenging working relationship” had developed, they did not consider the actions of the manager to be inappropriate.

The report reads: “There is a general view that your manager was very focused on the operational issues and this could be perceived by certain individuals as being micro-managed. However, I find no evidence that his approach crossed the line from firm management to bullying or harassment, or that he treated male team members any differently to female team members.”

In some instances, the report claims the manager had been supportive of requests from the employee, for example when she wanted to move office soon after joining.

The report reads: “[Senior management] were aware that you and your manager had a challenging working relationship and that after the first few months of you joining the company this relationship began to deteriorate. In local management’s view this was due to a concern that you were not sufficiently into the detail on operational processes, had not used the available tools to train yourself and were not notifying risk errors within the prescribed time.

“As a manager, he is accountable for his team and if there are potential areas where [the] team’s deliveries are not up to the required standards, it is right these issues are addressed in the appropriate way. I have found no evidence that the way in which your manager approached these issues was in any way inappropriate.”

While the employee claims that she was offered a voluntary severance package to leave the company as retaliation for raising concerns, the investigation found that the manager had no prior knowledge that HR and more senior management were due to discuss the offer with the employee.

However, there is a still a threat of further legal proceedings, both from Fidelity and from the employee claiming harassment.

Money Marketing understands that the employee is considering further legal action against Fidelity.

Meanwhile, Money Marketing has also seen a letter to the employee from solicitors acting on behalf of Fidelity asking her to “immediately cease with any further inaccurate media comment regarding her allegations and/or any naming of any employee of the company”.

The letter went on: “Our clients reserve all legal rights to file civil and/or criminal claims for defamation where they consider that your client has defamed any individual either directly by name or by inference.

“We are sure that aforesaid reply shall enable your client to view the controversy in its correct perspective and your client shall withdraw all her allegations and contentions made.”

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