Richemont says it is reviewing processes and procedures at its UK headquarters after an employee accused the organisation of racial discrimination when she was overlooked for a promotion.
An employment tribunal in London found in favour of Cheryl Spragg, who has been an accountant at Richemont for almost 5 years. She said she had been discriminated against because she is black.
The tribunal heard that Ms Spragg’s difficulties began with Richemont when she applied for a promotion to the post of controller within in the finance department for Montblanc, but was not shortlisted for the position. Ms Spragg felt that the company had “a preference for white continental Europeans” when promoting staff, and that she was “less favourably treated” than her white colleagues.
There were three controller vacancies and the claimant was not shortlisted for any of them, according to the tribunal’s findings.
The tribunal also heard evidence from another employee at the company’s London office, who was Malaysian Chinese, who said that the working environment at Richemont was rife with “casual racism” that staff were expected “just to put up with”. The ruling said that the employee considered it to be office banter “that was not worth fighting for”.
Following the tribunal, Richemont said in a statement that it worked hard to be a genuinely multicultural‚ racially and ethnically diverse employer‚ with our teams spanning cultures and nationalities across the globe. “These are the values that sit at the core of our business. We are therefore very concerned with the findings of the tribunal and will review our processes and procedures accordingly,” the statement adds.
The tribunal’s conclusions say that it found that there was a preference for white continental Europeans; the HR team had received no equality and diversity training; and that there were no black
staff at senior level and none in the HR team.
It concluded that in the selection process for three controller vacancies in the finance department gave preferential consideration to three white candidates over Ms Spragg.
“We find unanimously that there was direct discrimination in the failure to shortlist the claimant for the controller role,” the tribunal’s conclusion states, although it clarifies that: “The purpose or effect of the recruitment processes was not to violate the claimant’s dignity, nor to create an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for her”.
Richemont UK’s director and legal counsel was asked for comment, but has not yet responded.