The Paris bar council has ordered Allen & Overy (A&O) to pay €65,000 to a finance associate it dismissed shortly after she returned from maternity leave.
Following a hearing in November, bar chairman Pierre-Olivier Sûr ruled that the firm should pay the sum to former finance associate Carine Benamouzig in recompense for her treatment by the firm’s partners.
However Benamouzig’s claims of discrimination on grounds of gender and the fact she was a mother were rejected by the bar.
The associate had claimed that she had suffered discrimination after returning from maternity leave after the birth of each of her three children during the decade she worked for A&O. She said that she had seen lower salary increases and bonuses than her colleagues and that the fact she was a mother was not taken into account by the firm when it allocated work.
She said that she was dismissed at short notice with no mention of any grievance against her, five months after returning from maternity leave.
Although the bar chairman found Benamouzig had not been discriminated against, he awarded the damages due to the nature of her dismissal.
In a statement, A&O said: “We are pleased the claims of discrimination were dismissed as we have always been entirely satisfied this matter was dealt with in a manner consistent with the firm’s policies. Allen & Overy is committed to providing an open and inclusive working environment where all its people are encouraged and expected to perform to the best of their ability.”
The case was brought by Benamouzig’s husband Avi Bitton, a former Clifford Chance associate who won his own case for unfair dismissal against the magic circle firm a decade ago.
It was brought before the bar as under French law, lawyers are considered to be self-employed and the bar council has the power to arbitrate in disputes between firms and their legal staff.