LONDON — Swiss luxury group Richemont has responded to a series of racial discrimination accusations by an accountant in its London office, and stressed its commitment to maintaining diversity in the workplace and fostering a “safe and fair” working environment.
Cheryl Spragg, who is black and employed in the company’s accounting department, had filed 35 complaints alleging that she was treated unfairly in the workplace due to her race. Judges at the Central London Employment Tribunal dismissed most of Spragg’s complaints but ruled that Richemont could have been more fair to her.
“Richemont works very hard to be a genuinely multicultural, racially and ethnically diverse employer, with our teams spanning cultures and nationalities across the globe,” the owner of brands including Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and Dunhill said in a statement Wednesday.
“These are the values that sit at the core of our business. We are therefore very concerned with the findings of the Tribunal and will review our processes and procedures accordingly. We are entirely committed to continuing to build a safe and fair working environment for all our employees.”
Spragg’s complaints included a lack of support from human resources; repeatedly being refused promotions; being refused the right to attend corporate events or to be part of internal social events; unfair transfer of responsibilities, and being put under covert surveillance by the company.
All complaints were examined by judges at the Central London Employment Tribunal. In the majority of cases, the Tribunal unanimously dismissed Spragg’s claims as not having anything to do with her race.
The Tribunal did argue, however, that Richemont’s human resources department treated Spragg’s grievance with little sensitivity and often showed preference for “white continental Europeans” when hiring. It pointed to the three white employees who were hired for the financial controller position that Spragg had applied for up to three times.
The Tribunal dismissed Spragg’s claims of bullying by colleagues who changed the settings on her phone without her consent and lowered her office chair to an extreme extent. The Tribunal said the claims were not related to Spragg’s race.
With regard to the bullying allegations, Richemont confirmed it was common office practice that “when an employee had not turned their phone down when absent, someone else would do it for them.” The company also said that when Spragg was absent, her chair had been used by a visiting auditor who adjusted its position.
Spragg had also told the Tribunal that a team of private detectives had been hired to follow her, putting her family in an uncomfortable position. Richemont confirmed that she was put under surveillance to verify her claims of a severe back injury despite being seen attending a music festival. The Tribunal ruled that the company’s action was “disproportionate,” “intrusive to her private life” and not aligned with their own strict privacy policies.
The Tribunal has yet to decide on what Spragg will receive in compensation. Richemont declined to comment on whether it planned to appeal the Tribunal’s ruling.