An ex-Deloitte female has sued the Big Four firm over allegations that her former employer did not protect her from harassment perpetrated by a male partner and its investigation into the incident was corrupt, according to reports.
In court documents seen by the Financial Times, which first reported the news, Katrina Jones called the behaviour of Christopher Holliday, a Deloitte partner in quality and risk “oppressive, manipulative and abusive”.
The news comes one month after Big Four rival firm EY too came under fire from its own workforce for allowing a partner, who was found guilty of misconduct by a disciplinary panel, to retain his job after sexually harassing a junior female colleague on a company ski trip.
Jones and Holliday began a relationship in 2016, a year after Jones joined Deloitte as a risk and compliance analyst. Jones accused Holliday of being “controlling and manipulative,” with his behaviour being “inextricably linked to [his] seniority and authority” over her.
He allegedly made her share the GPS function on her phone to track her location, and frequently threatened her with dismissal from the company, saying that he would not need to give a reason.
Jones has claimed that she felt her employment was dependent on Holliday, who began to act in an “intimidatory” manner after she ended the relationship in 2017.
Following “rumours” in the office, Holliday reported himself to another partner, prompting a company investigation in 2018. But Jones has accused the investigation of being favouring Holliday. She said the partner leading the investigation was an inappropriate choice because he was a close colleague of Holliday. According to the legal claim, the partner heading the investigation ignored “clear signs” that Jones feared Holliday and, being at risk of psychiatric injury, required support from her employer.
In October 2018 Jones was signed off work by her doctor to cope with work-related stress and anxiety, which she said was the result of Holliday’s behaviour and how her employer handled the situation.
The news echoes that of Neil Hutt, a former EY transactions partner, who was found to have behaved in an “obscene and aggressive” manner, by a disciplinary hearing into the 51-year-old’s behaviour at an annual company trip in January 2019.
He made a series of lewd comments to a female junior colleague including interrupting a conversation during lunch to tell her: “What are you doing this afternoon? Because I’m going to **** you. And then I’m going to **** [another colleague].”
EY described the incident as “serious” and handed Hutt a £75,000 fine, but stopped short of striking him off even after the UK’s professional body for accountants in July found Hutt guilty of misconduct.
After an internal company investigation in which Hutt said he had “taken a joke too far,” EY allowed Hutt to stay in his position after he agreed to attend training on diversity and inclusiveness.
The female trainee described the internal investigation process, which took place one month after the incident, as “uncomfortable and embarrassing” as she was forced to repeat Hutt’s remarks to senior EY colleagues.
The investigation panel were told “increasing rumours around the office had left her feeling isolated and publicity about the incident had significantly increased her embarrassment and shame to the extent she had found it difficult coming into work.”
The accounting giant has since reportedly said it will review its disciplinary process and sanctions for staff and partners, and set up an anonymous feedback channel.