Barrister 1-0 Ordinary Person

Via Gareth Corfield, this story makes for grim reading:

A former senior saleswoman at Intel who accused the firm of sex discrimination and wrongful dismissal has lost all of her claims and has been ordered to pay the company £45,000 (~$63,000) by the middle of this month.

Ouch! So what happened?

Intel’s Internet of Things global partner director Rod O’Shea discriminated against “strong, confident women” and engineered their dismissals, Guiney told the tribunal in January.

“Rod at no time ever, offered to help or coach me, instead he made my life a misery and deliberately and spuriously damaged my reputation,” she said in her witness statement.

Right.

O’Shea organised an anonymous managerial survey about Guiney, something she described as unfair because it generated feedback from people who did not actually manage her, she told the tribunal.

I’m reminded here of a post written by the Oilfield Expat:

“If you want to know if somebody is any good, don’t bother asking their manager: a manager is never going to tell you their subordinate is crap.  Instead ask one of their colleagues, particularly someone who was relying on them to deliver something.  They’ll tell you the truth.”

But this isn’t really relevant. This is, however:

The Windsor-based saleswoman, who previously worked for Oracle and IBM, was also warned by the judge to stop accusing O’Shea of perjuring himself after she declared that he had made a mistake in his witness statement about reporting lines.

“You can clarify reporting lines. Introducing it as perjury sounds, to me, disproportionate,” Employment Judge Alastair Smail told Guiney…

Being told off by a judge for accusing the defendant of perjury is pretty damning. What the hell was her lawyer doing?

…who represented herself during the week-long January hearing.

*Meaty slap to forehead.*

She was up against barrister Akash Nawbatt QC, acting for Intel, whose cross-examination of her prompted Guiney to exclaim at one point: “Yesterday you walked all over me, barely letting me answer. Implying I deserved being fired!”

Oh dear lord! What was this woman thinking, representing herself in a discrimination case and going up against a QC hired by a multi-national corporation! Was she trying to save money, or she thought she had the legal skills to argue the case herself?

Nawbatt then pressed his point home: “That’s a balanced request, isn’t it?” to which Guiney conceded: “It looks as if…” before hastily adding “…but I know it’s not because I’ve seen what went on.”

Groan. There’s a saying out there which goes “there’s nothing so expensive as a cheap lawyer”. It appears having no lawyer costs you £45k. If she’d spent £250-300 on an hour’s consultation, she would have at least been told whether she had a case or not. I’m no lawyer, but it seems she’s been treated harshly:

The sacked saleswoman, who was dismissed in October 2016, after receiving an “improvement required” grading (the lowest available) during her annual appraisal, said she was fired “with a day’s notice in a corridor in Paris” during a phonecall with Intel HR worker Rachael Merchant, in between scheduled meetings with potential clients.

This seems rather unfair, but is it illegal? Well, that’s what a lawyer would have told her, and she would also have been advised whether it’s worth opening a case, and told her the chances of winning. A proper lawyer might also, for a lot less than £45k, have won her a settlement before it ever got to court. And if it did, the lawyer would manage the case so scenes like this wouldn’t ensue:

However, even Judge Smail questioned the basis for Guiney’s claim that her commission was unfairly docked by sexists, asking her: “Are you saying the reason they told you you owed £32k is because you are a woman?” to which she responded, after a pause: “Probably not.”

“Those allegations were only raised when you personally were at risk of redundancy, yes?” chipped in Nawbatt. Damningly, Guiney conceded: “Well, that is correct, yes.”

I tried lawyering on the cheap once. It didn’t work and the problem remained. I hired an expensive lawyer, and he took care of it within days. It might seem dear at the time, but in the long run it’s worth it. It’s a lesson everyone has to learn one way or another.

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22 thoughts on “Barrister 1-0 Ordinary Person

  1. Most likely that lawyers she had approach to represent her case all laughed at her claim. On case such as this with potential large payout, the usually don’t get paid unless they win. And the court cost is none trivial.

  2. Everyone hates lawyers, until they really need one.

    And I’ve seen cheap lawyer’s work (he billed himself as one of the national experts in my particular question, turns out he was crap. Perhaps his hourly rate under CHF 200 should have set alarm bells ringing. Ironically, someone used him to send a cease and desist to one of my clients that was just so massively stacked with basic legal errors that we told the client to basically reply “err, piss off and come back with something that’s legally sound” and they never heard from them again).

  3. I’m going to read between the lines here and guess that the lady in question was a complete self-centered back-stabbing bitch who did her best to take credit for other people’s hard work. Hence she got tossed. But because she’s such a narcissist she thought she’d try the discrimination thing because in her mind that would be the only reason she was unwelcome.

    I could be wrong but that’s how I interpret the dispute about sales commissions

  4. There’s a saying, isn’t there, that the person who acts as his own lawyer has a fool for a client.

  5. I use lawyers in my line of work all the time, and in some cases QC’s, money well spent provided you know how to put your case into context and provide a decent brief to get your legal support to focus on certain areas.

    I have never lost an unfair dismissal case or a contractual dispute. Lost an unfair trade practice in Johannesburg High Court and sacked my firm and hired the winning firm after that. So far so good with the new guys.

    Just pulled off a major contract legal strategy where we terminated an African contract (under English common law) due to our clients repudiatory contract. Our client claimed foul play because we had no termination right under the contract and that we could not unilaterally terminate. Following many meetings in many parts of the world including one where our clients counsel sat there and told the wider audience why their conduct wasn’t repudiatory, yes she was describing her case in front of me! Anyhow we won and I got what I wanted and saved our company a huge liability that would definitely have been due had we not pulled the stunt that we did. I told my client that one day in the future when we were all done and finished that I would show them my legal advice with case law on repudiatory conduct.

    As Tim said, the other thing about good legal advice is that even if it’s not what you want to hear you can adjust your settlement position accordingly. I have came to many an amicable settlement with the other party knowing that I didn’t have the upper hand if it went legal.

  6. self-centered back-stabbing bitch who did her best to take credit for other people’s hard work

    If that was grounds for firing people the pavements would be piled high with middle management.

  7. If that was grounds for firing people the pavements would be piled high with middle management

    Heh!

  8. She was fired “with a day’s notice in a corridor in Paris” during a phonecall with Intel HR worker Rachael Merchant, in between scheduled meetings with potential clients.

    Really? Who gets fired with one day’s notice? Unless you’re kicked out for gross misconduct, or in a probationary period, you always get at least a week’s notice period; even if you have to spend it at home (gardening leave). I’ve never worked anywhere with less than a one-month notice period.

    The way it reads, it sounds like she was fired at lunchtime but still had a client meeting in the afternoon. That must have been an interesting meeting.

  9. Whenever we’ve fired someone we’ve had them physically out the door within an hour or two of being told about it, to enjoy their gardening leave. You normally can’t have someone hanging around who you’ve just fired unless you really, really trust them……

  10. You normally can’t have someone hanging around who you’ve just fired unless you really, really trust them……

    I got booted once on a month’s notice period, and they ushered me out the door immediately. So I decided I’d spend the days until my demob skiing on the slope that was visible from the office window. I got on pretty well with my client, who was against my dismissal, and so texted him when I was skiing to let him know I was in effect being paid to ski. My former boss, a pretty dim sort, then decided it would be a good idea to have a meeting with him and report that the project I was working on had stalled because they didn’t have a replacement for me lined up. The client bellowed “Do you realise that, because of you, Tim is fucking skiing right now when he should be in here working on this fucking project?!”

  11. @Tim – that’s magic! 😀

    Nobody we had to get rid of had good relationships with any clients (they were juniors in any case, and hadn’t developed any such relationships – they have to learn the job before they’re let loose on clients directly).

    Then, at my previous employer, head office fired the 2 good back office staff, I quit, and they fired another senior (in fact the only other senior with strong client relationships locally). Pretty much all their interesting local business is with me now, particularly as the other senior did some time with us before deciding he wanted to go in-house.

  12. Aha, from my old backyard. I was a manager at Intel for 10 years, 5 years out of Swindon when stationed in Russia. I didn’t know any of those involved here, partially since I didn’t interact with the sales side, and partially since I left in 2009.
    First off, anyone who thinks managers like giving “Improvement Required” performance ratings is a naïve twit. It’s a miserable experience for even the most Machiavellian of managers. (I had to go through this process with an employee and witnessed others) You have to go through a painstaking process in order to do the right thing… and to avoid lawsuits. Secondly, an “IR” is usually a death sentence for an employee and could almost be considered an advanced termination notice. I never heard how many people survived this rating, but I’m sure it is a low percentage. You have 30 days to turn your performance around and if you don’t, then you can be terminated immediately. Per this story, that seems to justify the short notice she complained about. My one hesitation here is that the timing mentioned in the article was a bit strange. She got fired in October, but annual reviews are normally delivered in April. That implies that she survived the 30 days and got approval to continue working. Still, you are always on notice if you slip up after that and she may have received another message at the mid-year review in August or September.
    I have to think salespeople are treated a bit differently since they are on the road all the time. That she got fired while in Paris between meetings doesn’t shock me. If it was that urgent, perhaps she was a wreck that needed to be stopped. I can’t imagine why she would be allowed to attend another meeting, though.
    Next, I can’t fathom how she could object to the peer review mentioned. This is Intel 101 activity. Anyone with a brain knows that this is a normal process that is used for performance reviews. It is an integral part of the process for god’s sake! Not only does it give valuable feedback from other colleagues, but it is designed to be more impartial and to prevent manager bias against an employee. If the peers say you suck, then you pretty much suck.
    Anyway, she seems to be a flailing, bitter person that lacks self-awareness, at best, malevolent at worst. Good luck finding a job now.

  13. Oh dear lord! What was this woman thinking, representing herself in a discrimination case and going up against a QC hired by a multi-national corporation! Was she trying to save money, or she thought she had the legal skills to argue the case herself?

    She thought her case was so self-evident all she had to do was walk in there and tell her sob story and they’d fall all over themselves giving her Intel’s money. Because woman.

    I have never met a middle-management woman in a tech company who didn’t have a massive chip on their shoulder and an ironclad belief in their own victimhood.

  14. This one I’d put down to my theory of a lot of women being unable to model other people’s point of view. No doubt when she went to court she was thinking her case was so obviously justified, it didn’t need a brief. That a court wouldn’t see it from her point of view never occurred.
    Got the same here. Woman who’s headed to court in the belief that it’ll find in her favour or at worst suffer a small fine. Can’t make her see that if she loses, they’ll be consequences. There’s another party going to court on the same matter. If she loses, they win. Which’ll then mean they’ll have a claim on her for restitution in the serious thousands. She’s headed for court with a court supplied brief. Experience says worth exactly what the client’s personally paid them.
    My advice has been accept the other party’s offer to negotiate. Agree, neither side will provide evidence. Seems remarkably generous. She’s very little upside benefit, large downside risk. Other party’s opposite. Probably just doesn’t want the inconvenience. But she insists she’s going to win in court. Having listened to her side, with an open mind, not a chance. And in the system here, not paying court imposed restitution can see you doing a stretch.

  15. If the peers say you suck, then you pretty much suck.

    Ah yes, 360 degree reviews.

    The problem with those is that if you are the only competent person on a team of Dunning-Kruger nitwits, you end up looking bad.

    I once had to stave off a bad performance review by painstakingly explaining to my boss that the reason my team members were so disappointed with my performance was that they kept asking for things which were physically (and in some cases logically) impossible.

  16. Ah yes, 360 degree reviews.

    The problem with those is that if you are the only competent person on a team of Dunning-Kruger nitwits, you end up looking bad.
    ——
    Well, sure, but if you want to rely upon one manager to seal your whole fate, be my guest. Also, unless this woman in the story is really a prophet sent by God and is being rejected by the blind, corrupt people, then I guess your caution is well-meaning. Otherwise, having a company make an effort to get more than one opinion about someone seems quite admirable, in my book. Clearly, this woman was no prophet.

    BTW, I always love the “it happened to me, so an entire theory is bogus for the general population” comment is always my favorite. The 360 peer review is not meant to be the single source for a review anyway.

  17. “Agree, neither side will provide evidence. ”

    Gosh – sounds like it might be a “performance of contract” issue there with one of your lady friends. No wonder the other party wants to keep it out of court 😉

  18. She thought her case was so self-evident all she had to do was walk in there and tell her sob story and they’d fall all over themselves giving her Intel’s money.

    That was my impression, too.

  19. I always love the “it happened to me, so an entire theory is bogus for the general population” comment is always my favorite.

    I said no such thing; I was simply pointing out that review processes only work if they’re undertaken in good faith. I’ve worked at more than one highly politicized (in the junior high sense, not the civics sense) organization where people with good skills were ostracized because they wouldn’t play along with the lad culture or wouldn’t overlook serious misbehaviour. Does it disprove the general pattern? No. Does it happen rather a lot, regardless? Yes.

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