Nathalie Abildgaard, 27, said she had to resign from her job to avoid working with Frederic Michel-Verdier. Picture: Nathalie Abildgaard/Linkedin
Nathalie Abildgaard, 27, said she had to resign from her job to avoid working with Frederic Michel-Verdier. Picture: Nathalie Abildgaard/Linkedin

Record payout over sex pest case

A LONDON financier who claimed she was sexually harassed and bullied by her boss at a division of one of Australia's leading industry superannuation investment firms has won a record payout.

The former London-based employee Nathalie Abildgaard sued IFM Investors and its European senior executive Frederic Michel-Verdier over an incident at a Spanish nightclub in 2017.

The case was seen as rare in the UK's financial industry where most such cases are settled but they went to court with IFM initially seeking to fight the claims but decided over the weekend to settle and paid out almost $500,000, exceeding her original claim.

The sum includes a significant donation for her charity, Legal Aid for Business Diversity, which she set up to help people who have faced discrimination at work.

The Danish-born Abildgaard, 27, sued her employer after 50-year-old married IFM UK-based executive director Michel-Verdier invited her back to his hotel room with an offer she refused.

She had told the work tribunal he had told her "if I was 20 years younger I would have been all over you" as he suggested they return to his hotel room where "we could have some fun". He later texted her his room details.

 

Nathalie Abildgaard. Picture: Nathalie Abildgaard/Linkedin
Nathalie Abildgaard. Picture: Nathalie Abildgaard/Linkedin

 

Frederic Michel-Verdier. Picture: IFM Investors
Frederic Michel-Verdier. Picture: IFM Investors

She claimed he also tried to dance with her during the 2018 incident at the Madrid nightclub Bling Bling, where the firm were celebrating closing a major European private equity deal, and he allegedly told her "you don't understand I am so much older then you. You are young. I can teach you a lot about sex". She quit her job a month later.

He has denied all claims and remains in his job.

The workplace tribunal had also heard of a worrying culture at the Aussie-owned $117 billion fund management firm where in the European operations there had been 19 out of 25 resignations in a six-month period in 2017 involving women with 14 of those having left as "regretted exits".

In a joint statement between the parties last night, they stated: "IFM Investors and a former employee, Nathalie Abildgaard, have reached a settlement agreement in relation to Ms. Abildgaard's Employment Tribunal claim including her claims for sexual harassment, constructive dismissal and victimisation. Both parties believe the terms of the settlement to be fair, and importantly, do not restrict Ms. Abildgaard from discussing the case. All legal proceeding will now cease."

Outside the tribunal she told News Corp Australia: "I am pleased to have reached a fair settlement after such an emotionally and economically draining process. I am especially happy that I can share my experience with others taking resource-rich employers to court for workplace harassment and raise public awareness of the barriers for individuals to get access to justice. I hope my story will encourage others who have experienced discrimination in the workplace to seek justice."

She said Legal Aid for Business Diversity would support others in enforcing their legal rights under the Equality Act.