Whistleblower sues ‘morally bankrupt’ law firm that ‘drove staff to brink of suicide, sexually harassed young staff and weeded out those who complained in ‘Operation Snowflake”
- McMillan Williams allegedly condoned sexual harassment, bullying and assault
- Helen Clifford, 49, says staff were pushed to brink of suicide at hands of bosses
- One staffer was sacked ‘and told he was a d***head with mental health problems’
A high-street law firm is being sued over claims it created a ‘morally bankrupt environment’ where sexual harassment, bullying, assault and racism was condoned.
McMillan Williams, which owns 27 offices in England, has won awards for its charity commitments, support of working mothers and sponsoring Brighton Pride.
But Helen Clifford, 49, said behind its squeaky-clean public image was a ‘culture of fear’ and staff were pushed ‘to the brink of suicide’.
Helen Clifford, 49, claims behind McMillan Williams’ squeaky-clean public image was a ‘culture of fear’ and staff were pushed ‘to the brink of suicide’
Colum Smith (left), a former chief executive, was sacked and allegedly told he ‘was a d***head with mental health problems who needed to be removed from the business’. Dionne Allen is said to have ‘disappeared overnight’ after being allegedly physically assaulted by the chairman
Clifford, who joined the firm in 2015, is claiming unfair dismissal, sexual harassment, victimisation and punishment for whistleblowing.
‘All the senior people now are white, male and middle-class. This was a firm that prided itself as having the highest level of diversity with high numbers of women and ethnic minority staff. It became a culture of fear,’ she told an east London tribunal last week, The Sunday Times reports.
‘The people they replaced turned it into what I certainly would describe as a morally bankrupt environment,’ she told the preliminary hearing where she’s requesting the disclosure of documents from McMillan Williams.
The tribunal also heard allegations that a young female trainee recorded herself being sexually harassed by a worker who then reported her for ‘misconduct’.
The accused is said to have told senior manager Gary Wainwright to ‘sweep it under the carpet’, the tribunal heard.
Wainwright himself had allegedly been ‘caught multiple times having sex in unlocked shower rooms in the London Bridge office’, the paper reports
Colum Smith, a former chief executive, reported the firm to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) when he was allegedly told he ‘was a d***head with mental health problems who needed to be removed from the business’ and sacked.
Mr Smith said he was also told he had ‘the wrong accent, went to the wrong school and wrong university’.
Chairman Michael McGrath (left) is said to have assaulted Ms Allen and silenced her with an NDA. Gary Wainwright, senior manager, was allegedly been ‘caught multiple times having sex in unlocked shower rooms in the London Bridge office’
Dionne Allen, the firm’s former director of regulation and head of the mental wellbeing department, is said to have ‘disappeared overnight’ after being allegedly physically assaulted by the chairman, Michael McGrath.
Ms Allen. the only female and black member of the board, was then silenced with a non-disclosure agreement.
Insiders say a drive to ‘weed out’ members of staff who moaned about bullying was nicknamed ‘Project Snowflake’, the tribunal heard.
Betsan Criddle, representing for McMillan Williams, said the case ‘doesn’t seem to stack up on its own merit’ and described the request for documents as a ‘phishing expedition’. A preliminary trial date has been set for January.
Judge Richard Barrowclough reserved his decision on whether to disclose the documents.
He may also allow Ms Allen to give evidence despite her non-disclosure agreement.