A former underwriter at Swiss Re has won an employment tribunal against the world’s biggest reinsurance company, after a senior executive at the firm told her: “If I had breast like yours, I would be demanding too.”
Julia Sommer, a political risk underwriter at the Swiss insurer, is now set to receive a payout, after a London tribunal heard her boss at the firm said, “I bet you like to be on top in bed,” during an office drinks event with colleagues, The Times first reported.
Sommer claimed Robert Llewelyn, head of the global underwriting department, had quipped during the work event that Sommer was interested in pursuing an “open relationship,” after she had joked about persuading her boyfriend to marry her.
The tribunal heard that Llewelyn had also criticised the junior underwriter for having a “dominant” personality, and that the exec had once ordered her to “shut up” during a meeting.
After the junior underwriter went on maternity leave, Llewelyn, who denies the claims, allegedly plotted to force her out of the company, by making her redundant in April 2021.
The tribunal ruled that Sommer was subject to sex and maternity-related discrimination, sexual harassment, and unfair dismissal.
The news comes as the latest in a series of bullying and sexism scandals that have raised concerns around the working cultures of the UK’s major insurance firms.
In March, Lloyd’s of London issued a record £1m fine against Atrium Underwriters over its failure to deal with a “systematic campaign of bullying” against one of its junior employees, that took place over a number of years.
Atrium was also accused of “sanctioning and tolerating” an annual “Boy’s Night Out,” during which male employees, including senior executives, made “discriminatory and harassing” sexual comments about female colleagues.
In May, Aviva chief executive Amanda Blanc was also subjected to a barrage of “inappropriate” comments at the insurer’s annual general meeting (AGM).
The AGM saw investors ask whether Blanc should be “wearing trousers” and suggest she was “not the man for the job”.
Swiss Re has been approached for comment.