Female trainee accountant at KPMG sacked after accusing boss of ‘mansplaining’, tribunal hears

Our thanks to Steven for this. The full article:

A trainee accountant at one of the world’s biggest firms was sacked after accusing her boss of ‘mansplaining’ when he asked her to wear smarter clothes to work.

Zhihui Lu asked KPMG manager Matt Brunton ‘who was he as a man to be telling her what she can and cannot wear?’ after she turned up in the office in jeans and a jumper.

In a ‘loud and aggressive tirade’ the Durham University graduate then asked whether he thought her bra was appropriate and tried to show him her bra strap, a tribunal was told.

The ‘completely inappropriate’ outburst was just one of a number of incidents of misconduct that led to Miss Lu being fired after just three years at the accounting giant, a panel heard.

Miss Lu claimed she was discriminated against on race and disability grounds but an employment tribunal found in favour of the financial services firm.

After being taken on as a graduate trainee she was accused of being overly aggressive, emotional and rude and was repeatedly warned about her behaviour.

On one occasion the tribunal heard Miss Lu responded to the news that she had missed out on a position she had been after by telling a senior manager she would have done better if she had slept with one of the firm’s male partners.

She repeatedly referred to a senior member of the firm as ‘the bald partner’ despite knowing his name, and told a female colleague she had bad skin and ‘looked terrible’ at work, the panel was told.

According to the tribunal, Miss Lu ignored requests to stop taking too much food for herself from lunches laid on for staff and on one occasion turned up with containers so she could remove as much as possible. She also refused to sit on the same floor as the rest of the Insurance team, commandeering a meeting room five floors below in which she installed a rice cooker.

On one occasion her managers at KPMG became so concerned about Miss Lu’s mental health when they could not get hold of her one evening that they rang the police to check at her home that she was alright, an intervention that she later bitterly complained about.

In fact – as Miss Lu later admitted – she was out at the opera. The East London hearing was told that Miss Lu joined KPMG as an audit assistant in 2015 after graduating from Durham with a degree in accounting and finance. However, within two years bosses were raising concerns about her performance as well as her erratic behaviour. In the autumn of 2017 she went off sick from work having been diagnosed with stress and depression.

The tribunal was told that when she returned to work the following February at the firm’s Canary Wharf office she prompted fresh concerns including over her choice of clothing.

The tribunal heard that Mr Brunton, a senior manager at the company, emailed her to ask her to dress more smartly. “I noted you were in the office this afternoon in casual clothing,” he wrote. “This is not appropriate attire for the office during working hours. Please ensure you are in the office in appropriate work attire going forward”.

The hearing was told this prompted Miss Lu to launch ‘a loud and aggressive tirade against him’ demanding to know “if the bra she was wearing that day was appropriate, and trying him to show him her bra strap”.

She asked him “Who was he as a man to be telling her what she can and cannot wear?” and then ‘stormed off’, the tribunal heard.

She was later suspended and eventually sacked in November 2018 for gross misconduct. She took KPMG to the tribunal claiming the firm had discriminated against her.

But the panel sided with KPMG and dismissed her claims for unfair dismissal, harassment, and disability and race discrimination entirely.

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