Former employee taking on Freehills

by 11 Mar 2010

Freehills has rejected claims that former lawyer Nicole Stransky suffered age discrimination and bullying during her two-year stint at the firm from 2006.

Stransky, who is now 50-years-old, told HR Leader that she will take on the top-tier firm at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, with a hearing scheduled for June.

She claims she suffered age discrimina tion and was continually bullied and ha rassed by supervising partners, despite rais ing the issue with the firm’s human resources department.

A Freehills spokesperson said the firm is not in a position to comment on these mat ters as they will be before the courts, but said: “We strongly reject any claim that we have treated her unfairly.”

A qualified psychologist, Stransky had a successful career in organisational develop ment in human resources, before being ad mitted as a solicitor in May 2006 when she was a paralegal for Mallesons Stephen Jaques.

She began at Freehills in 2006 after being offered a full-time role as a first year compe tition lawyer, on a 12-month contract basis.

Her first year at Freehills was wonderful, according to Stranksy. “It really was fantas tic. I was very passionate about law. I loved it,” she said.

But it was in 2008 that Stransky became concerned that more work was being dis tributed to younger lawyers and that she was being excluded from large and complex mat ters, having a negative impact on her career development.

“Over several months I kept raising the issue, very politely, with my coach ... and he said I'd be allocated to the next merger...that didn't occur,” she claimed.

“By February 2009 I'd become very con cerned about my career development as a competition lawyer.

“I was humiliated a couple of times in team meetings when I had to report that I had no work,” she said. “I felt terribly demoralised, particularly on days when I had no billable work at all.”

After raising the issue with human re sources, Stransky claimed the partners start ed behaving differently towards her, which she said constituted bullying and harassment. “They're very subtle behaviours,” she ex plained.

According to Stransky the HR department listened to her issues but failed to address them and follow internal procedures.

It was at this point that Stransky said she started to become very ill and was diagnosed as having depression and anxiety.

Stransky said it “went on too long” and she claims she raised the issue with the di rector of HR, the CEO and the managing part ner, but nothing changed.

With the outcome unknown until June this year, Freehills has said they will continue to support Stransky “wherever possible” and confirmed that she receives 75 per cent of her salary through their salary income protection insurance policy.

“We take great care in providing all our staff with the necessary support to progress their career,” the spokesperson said.

“We provide all our staff with opportunities to succeed regard less of their age, gender, religious belief or sexual orientation.”

– Briana Everett

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