Leading law firm sued for ‘bullying’ tax consultant
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