Toni Thornton, formerly Queensland state manager of wealth management firm JBWere, said a culture of harassment in the organisation began in January 2009, when she was pregnant with her first child.
She is claiming nearly $4.5m in the Federal Court, lodging a number of complaints against her former employer – including allegations that HR recommended she sit tight, rather than lodge a complaint against a discriminatory co-worker.
According to court documents, Thornton said her supervisor Paul Heath told her “a woman's IQ halves when she falls pregnant”.
She claimed he also appraised her figure before saying, “Yep, you are having a boy because your bum has blown out.”
While pregnant with her second child, another colleague, Steve Marino, told her he was “pissed off” and “frustrated” about her impending maternity leave, and no longer wished to share clients.
Thornton alleged that she was then told by the head of human resources not to make a complaint about Marino’s comments.
Upon returning to work in July 2013, shortly after having her second child, Thornton said she was given higher targets and lower bonuses than her colleagues, while her client base was cut by a third. She further contended that she was unfairly performance managed out of the company.
A spokesperson for JBWere, which is just over 80 per cent owned by NAB, has stated: “We deny these allegations and will vigorously defend the matter.”
Justice Geoffrey Flick agreed to mediation, but warned JBWere that there is “a significant public interest” in the case’s progress, as it involved alleged contraventions of the Fair Work Act.
“That's not a matter you can just buy your way out of,” he warned.
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A highly paid former executive is seeking $4.5m compensation, claiming she was sexually harassed and bullied to stand down from her job after starting her family.