Merrill wins £7.5m sex discrimination case

Dec 23 2004 by Nic Paton Print This Article

A former executive of Merrill Lynch yesterday lost her sex discrimination case against the US bank.

Stephanie Villalba, 42, had sued the bank for £7.5 million, claiming she had been subject to gender discrimination, unequal pay, unfair dismissal and victimisation.

But late on Wednesday the employment tribunal hearing her case, which had been the UK’s biggest sex discrimination case, dismissed the gender discrimination and pay claims and some of the victimisation claims.

However it upheld some of the victimisation claims and her claim of unfair dismissal, which has a standard compensation of £55,000, a fraction of what she had wanted.

The amount of damages she receives will be decided in the New Year.

Villalba was made redundant last year from her £1 million-a-year job as head of the firm’s European private client business.

The bank described the outcome “as a major victory”, adding in a statement: “We said from the start that this case was about performance not gender. Ms Villalba was removed by the very same person who had promoted her into the position and who then replaced her with another woman.”

Villalba’s lawyers described the ruling as “very disappointing”.

During the tribunal, Villalba had branded the bank “institutionally sexist” and accused her boss of humiliating her by forcing her to act like a “stewardess” to a male colleague on a corporate jet during a business trip.

The bank retorted by accusing Villalba of not being prepared to travel to the nine countries she was in charge of and said that, when she was sacked last year, the European operations were losing money.