Lead­ing law firm sued for ‘bul­ly­ing’ tax con­sul­tant

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Pa­trick Sawer Sarah Lim­brick

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A TAX con­sul­tant at a lead­ing law firm was bul­lied by be­ing given an ex­ces­sive work­load and sin­gled out be­cause she made per­sonal phone calls in a for­eign lan­guage, it has been claimed.

Priti Dhu­lia, 54, is now su­ing Clif­ford Chance, one of the ‘Magic Cir­cle’ of top law firms, for £150,000 dam­ages, say­ing the ha­rass­ment left her shat­tered.

She also claims that she was picked on be­cause her pri­vate phone calls were con­ducted in Gu­jarati, an In­doAryan lan­guage na­tive to the In­dian state of Gu­jarat, rather than English.

Mrs Dhu­lia says she devel­oped an ad­just­ment dis­or­der, went on to suf­fer se­vere de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety and was forced to take a year away from work.

Her hus­band Viren said: “It’s been a night­mare. They were out to get her. She was de­voted to work. She would work at home un­til 2am some­times.”

Mrs Dhu­lia, from Houn­slow, west London, worked for Clif­ford Chance from 1995 to 2015, dur­ing which she was pro­moted to tax con­sul­tant, pre­par­ing its part­ners’ In­land Rev­enue re­turns. She claims that over the years, more and more work was as­signed to her by Philip Court­ney, her head of de­part­ment, un­til she was car­ry­ing a far heav­ier work­load than her col­leagues. Ac­cord­ing to a writ lodged with the High Court, she worked far longer than her con­tracted 35-hour week and of­ten had to work at home in the evening and at week­ends.

It is claimed that she was al­lo­cated half of the part­ners’ tax re­turns to process, compared to the 33 per cent as­signed to one col­league and the 17 per cent given to an­other.

De­spite this, she claims that Mr Court­ney and the two col­leagues re­peat­edly crit­i­cised her, say­ing she was tak­ing too long and not do­ing enough.

Mrs Dhu­lia was also ac­cused of lack­ing “a proper work ethic”. The writ claims: “Mr Court­ney’s at­ti­tude to [her] was in gen­eral ag­gres­sive and akin to that of a bully.”

Al­though she com­plained to the firm’s HR de­part­ment, she claims nothing was done to help her.

Mrs Dhu­lia’s treat­ment is said to have wors­ened when col­leagues be­gan mak­ing snide re­marks about the number of pri­vate phone calls she made, al­legedly sin­gling her out be­cause some of them were in a for­eign lan­guage.

Her hus­band, 57, said: “It was ridicu­lous. My wife was speak­ing in Gu­jarati to her sis­ter who was ill and had to have an emer­gency pro­ce­dure. It was an ur­gent mat­ter. Other peo­ple would make per­sonal calls but be­cause they were in English, no­body cared.”

In 2014, Mrs Dhu­lia was sacked after send­ing out a letter deemed to be se­ri­ously neg­li­gent.

Al­though her dis­missal was re­scinded just days later, she was left “con­stantly tear­ful, un­able to sleep or eat, anx­ious and de­pressed” and her GP signed her off work with se­vere stress.

Mrs Dhu­lia re­signed later that year. After a year off work – due to what a psy­chol­o­gist di­ag­nosed as “an ad­just­ment dis­or­der and oc­cu­pa­tional prob­lems as a re­sult of over­work and work­place bul­ly­ing” – Mrs Dhu­lia got a job as a tax con­sul­tant for an es­tate agent, but earned 30 per cent less.

She con­tin­ues to need anti-de­pres­sant med­i­ca­tion, ac­cord­ing to the writ.

A spokesman for Clif­ford Chance said: “We dis­agree with the ver­sion of events pre­sented in this case, however it would be in­ap­pro­pri­ate to com­ment fur­ther while le­gal pro­ceed­ings are on­go­ing.”

Clif­ford Chance had a rev­enue of £1.54bil­lion in the last fi­nan­cial year and its se­nior part­ners can earn more than £1mil­lion a year.

Priti Dhu­lia suf­fered ha­rass­ment, she claims in a writ

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