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AIBU to make this request at work?

30 replies

FriedGreenTomatoes · 02/01/2008 13:42

OK - a bit of background. Had a highly successful city career until I went on mat leave. Firm makes a big deal of offering careers to working mums, but since returning I have been sidelined - best clients given to others etc. As a result I cannot achieve the highest bonus targets and feel that I can't progress further.
Have now found a great new job, so am about to resign and am feeling positive about career change. But I still feel a bit pissed off that I have had my current career cut short after giving 12 years of my life to them.
In the process of leaving I have made them aware that I am not happy with my treatment, and they have made me fully aware that they have acted within the law (which is a grey area but I am not thinking of suing them anyway). But I would be interested to know what has been discussed about me between the directors, as third party feedback I have heard through the grapevine is less than complimentary about me and very unfair (as in them denigrating my performance just to justify why they didn't give me clients when there has been no issue with my performance at all).
So, I have been toying with making a request under Freedom of Information Act to see the data held on me. But I know this would be a major pain in the arse for them, as they only have 28 days (or something like that) to go through all email archives, meeting notes, HR records, EVERYTHING, to find any reference to me. I am not interested in most of what they will drag up but you can only make the request for all data (I believe).
As it would be so onerous, I am not inclined to make the request. But some of my friends feel I should, just to get full closure and understanding.
If I did make the request, AIBU?

OP posts:

fireflyfairy2 · 02/01/2008 13:50

IMO you would be perfectly within your rights and not unreasonable at all.


thebecster · 02/01/2008 13:51

I wouldn't bother, frankly. It's very hurtful to think that people have been underhanded to you, and I'm going through something similar so I can understand where you're coming from. I've handed in my notice after, just to give one example, my pay was effectively cut by 50% since returning from mat leave (but very sneakily, all within the law). I'm not sueing either. I refuse to give them any more of my time or headspace!

You've made the decision to move on with your life, and it sounds like it was a very good decision! Onwards, upwards and never a backward glance, that's what I say.


loopylou6 · 02/01/2008 13:52

no its not unreasonable, BUT u make make trouble for yourself at work, i suppose it depends on how strongly u feel


loopylou6 · 02/01/2008 13:53

u may make, not make make


spanielsmom · 02/01/2008 13:55

I may be wrong, but I believe the FOI only applies to public organisations and companies that work for government organisations, so you probably could not do this anyway - there is no FOI for a private company.


alicet · 02/01/2008 13:57

I don't think you should worry about it being onerous on them. It sounds like although they acted within the law they have been underhand with you so sod them!

However I would think about what you will do with this information. If you do find something insulting to you you may find it very upsetting. On the other hand if you don't (and lots of people these days are VERY careful not to put anything they can't substantiate in writing because of the FIA) you will be left in the same place as you are now but having wasted a large part of your life trudging through a load of boring paperwork.

If you think it would help you get closure go for it. If not (and I am inclined to agree with the other poster who said this) look forward not back and leave them behind.


SayNOtothecookieRookie · 02/01/2008 13:57

Now I could be wrong but I was involved in a request and I thought that they are only obliged to give you info that is readily to hand, i.e. your file and any emails that have your name in the title.

It would be unlikely that they put any denigrating information in writing and if there was anything on email, unless it has your name as a heading, it is highly unlikely that it would surface.

By all means ask for the info but I'd be really surprised if anything useful comes up.

Best wishes for your new job.


callmeovercautious · 02/01/2008 14:01

You have a right under the Data Protection Act to have a copy of your Personnel file. Not any references as they are confidential to the Author. They can ask you to pay an Admin fee of £10. You do not have the right to see emails sent from someone else to someone else as that would breach their rights (same as the references).

Bearing this in mind it is probably not worth it as you won't get anything you are looking for anyway. Even if there is something incriminating in there they will clean it up first.

Good Luck in the New Career!


Reamhar · 02/01/2008 14:07

I think the Freedom Of Information Act relates to information held by Public Authorities, not private companies. But you can request your records under the Data Protection Act, and they have the right to charge you a administration fee for that information. Nice eh? Insert sarcastic comment here. More info here

YNBU if it makes you feel better, why not ask for your records. I've had a bad experience with a company I previously worked for prior to going on maternity leave, so I know exactly how you feel.


FriedGreenTomatoes · 02/01/2008 14:47

Thanks for all the feedback and advice. And sorry to hear that others are/have been in the same or similar situations - it sucks, doesn't it?
It must be the Data protection Act rather than Freedom of Information Act that I am entitled to see the data under. I do know that our company go through and provide all emails that you have been referenced by name in, rather than just your personnel file, as we had a presentation on it a few years ago (though I obviously wan't paying attention to which Act it was. LOL)
I don't think I will go through with the request, though part of me is slightly tempted just to cause them an inconvenience . Whilst I may find out what has been said about me, I may well not - and even if I do, there is nothing I can do about it. All it will do is show what a bunch of idiotic wankers they are - but I know that anyway.
So, onwards and upwards for me. And good riddance to those who think of working mothers as second class citizens. I gave birth to a baby, not my brain, ffs!!

OP posts:

helenhismadwife · 02/01/2008 14:52

You are not being at all unreasonable in requesting the information if you feel it would be helpful to you in some way, although it could make you feel more pissed off and upset if the contents are unfair and untrue.

Good luck with your new job and with whatever you decide to do


SquiffyonSnowballs · 02/01/2008 15:45

I would recommend you post this query under the employment issues thread (if you haven;t done already) to see if you get more replies.

FWIW I work in city too, and DID make a grievance claim once because I seemed to be getting sidelined... As part of the (very satisfying) compromise agreement, I negotiated to see my personnel file. If I hadn't made any complaint then there would have been nothing on there. But, because I had complained, they had been obliged to obtain comment and evidence (which included emails) relating to my complaint, and that was all filed on my personel record, and so I had access to it. And very interesting reading it made indeed.

So, I think you need to make a formal complaint and THEN after a period of time request to see the file. But someone like flowerybeanbag will probably know for sure.

IMO the city firms get away with murder and this should be stopped ASAP. Did you know that you are entitled to a full years' bonus even if you are on maternity leave? Even if it is 'discretionary' and normally referenced to measurable performance during the year (and even if you have zero performance because you were on leave for the whole year in question)? Not many people realise that, and they take pro-rated bonuses for the period they were at work. And it isn't legal! Stuff like that makes me mad.


FriedGreenTomatoes · 02/01/2008 15:58

It's awful, isn't it Squiffy. I raised a grievance a few months ago about my level of bonus. But it just concluded that the bonus was fair because bonus is determined by revenue brought in. As I had not been given clients initially on my return (allegedly in case I had childcare issues and let clients down [hmmm]) then I did not have a comparable client revenue to my peers, and hence my bonus was so much lower. Grrr!
Oh, fuck 'em. May they all rot in hell. Wish my firm gave out compromise agreements. I would like a payoff, but they never bloody do. They just run you down until you resign with your self-esteem in tatters. So I have decided to jump ship before then.

OP posts:

FriedGreenTomatoes · 02/01/2008 15:59

Damn - I always write hmm with too many ms. I meant

OP posts:

SquiffyonSnowballs · 02/01/2008 17:14

I don't have time to dig out the stuff today, but there was a case whcih established that if the sole reason that you didn't make the commission numbers to receive a discretionary bonus is because you were pregnant (and not at work for example) then it is by definition sex discrimination to receive a lower bonus, specifically because the reason you didn't reach the numbers is a reason which cannot be applied if you were a man. I can find for you tomorrow if it is something you want to pursue. Or speak to a damn fine solicitor. I know that lots of banks still do it but it is almost certainly illegal (though there has never been a really big case on it to date) - I know it is not allowed because I am part of mgmt and we get legal guidance briefings from our lawyers when we set bonuses. That made me worried when I got PG myuself so I did lots of reading up on it. Let me know if you want me to dig the stuff up. But you will need a top-notch solicitor if you want to fight it (though I guess your company will back down and cough up if you push them hard enough)


RibenaBerry · 02/01/2008 17:23

I am sorry squiffy, but I don't agree with that interpretation of the law (and I think a lot of other City lawyers and HR people wouldn't either). Bonuses are really complicated, but it's not as simple as having to pay full bonus.

It may be sex discrimination in some circumstances not to pay a bonus, but all pay and benefits are suspended during maternity leave, so it is generally lawful to stop bonuses that are based on personal performance (just not those that go to everyone - e.g. Christmas bonus of one week's pay to everyone). It is probably not lawful not to at least pro rate them though. When someone returns, there can be complicated issues if clients have not been returned, etc, and that is the reason targets were not met.


FriedGreenTomatoes · 02/01/2008 17:36

Thanks for the offer Squiffy, but I really am not going to take it that far. I don;t have the fight in me, and I am sure they will come up with strong enough arguments to say they have acted within the law. And our company make it policy to NEVER back down - they always fight to court, so lots of expense and stress which I would rather not go through. I just want to work out my 8 weeks left with them, then move on and focus on the rest of my life

OP posts:

Pamelap · 02/01/2008 17:55

I don't know if you have already put your resignation in writing, but it might be worth making a reference to your reason for leaving in the letter. In effect there is a potential grievance here and whilst you may have decided not to persue it (and I can totally understand why) it doesn't do any harm to let people know why you are leaving and see if there is any reaction from HR.

Does your company do exit interviews? It might be worth asking for one if they do.

Good luck with your new job!


FriedGreenTomatoes · 02/01/2008 18:33

Hi Pamelap. I will definitely out my reasons in writing, and will not hold back at the exit interview!

OP posts:

FriedGreenTomatoes · 02/01/2008 18:42

I meant PUT.

OP posts:

SquiffyonSnowballs · 03/01/2008 09:57

RibenaBerry - My understandign is the following: under hoyland vs asda it was established that only contractual (or effectively contractual) bonuses form part of remuneration for purposes of maternity leave, and that discretionary bonuses that are TRULY discretionary are outside of this definition, and therefore are part of contractual rights, which are not covered by maternity pay provisions. Thus the fallback is that if the contractual rights are restricted solely because the victim is female, then this is discriminatory. BUT there have never been any 100% clear cases brought to court where the claimant is complaining only about discretionary bonus and not about other stuff as well. One of the closest you get in terms of clarity comes in some of the statements made by the tribunal in BNP v McGregor but even this is not clearcut because the discretionary rules were not crystal clear, which seemed to swing the case her way (but that is generally the way with discretionary bonuses anyway in the city) If the bonus is discretionary and the employer IS able to show that all bonuses paid were paid to an established format (eg a % of revenues brought in, or other clearly defined criteria) then a case will fail. But generally the city uses the revenue criteria as a base, and then veers away and adds/subtracts stuff on a whim and depending on whether the person has a viable continuing career in the company. All perfectly allowable as far as the company is concerned (see Keen vs commerzbank), but if that's the case for any firm (and it normally is) then the downside is that the Mazzotero case means that you are a bit stuffed when it comes to proving that the bonus wasn't discrimnatory. And where you cannot prove that something wasn't discriminatory then tribunals lean towards assuming it might have been...

Here's an article that discussed the case, and you can google for other stuff. Our lawyers (I work for a large bank) "very strongly recommend" that we pay full bonuses because to do anything else is just not worth the risk. If we as managers propose to do anything else for women on OML, we have to have a meeting with the lawyers first to justify our reasons (to date no-one has dared cross them, so I've no idea what happens in such a meeting!)

BTW, RibenaBerry, this kind of stuff is something I am passionate about because I am obsessed with the treatment of females in the city (not least because I am one). I am for example currently doing research for the LSE on the extent of negative attitudes to flexible working at the top (director/partner level) in Financial Services, where males perceive there to be an injustness when it comes to selling your soul to the city (old school) versus doing it on a 3-day week basis (the MN-approved school of thinking). I would be really interested to talk to you offline about your reasoning and whether my understandings would/wouldn't stand up in court. I know that even the biggest banks do this pro-rata thing (my understanding is that the clever ones get their staff to sign an agreement accepting last yrs bonus X 4/12, or whatever, before they go off on maternity leave), and a lot of lawyers think it's OK, so I may have missed something in my own research. But probably not an exciting topic to delve into on this thread... I have already posted way, way too much!


FriedGreenTomatoes · 03/01/2008 13:17

That is all really interesting Squiffy. And don't get me started on the flexible working thing! I returned to work from mat leave on a 4 day a week contract, and I get so many negative attitudes from colleagues about not being as committed as them, and that they put more into the company. Yes, I am contracted for 1 day a week less than them - but my base salary and benefits have been cut proportionately. (Even more so given the bonus issue). And I have still been regularly working 70+ hours on a 4 day/week contract. Grrrrr.

OP posts:

Squiffy · 03/01/2008 13:29

Tell me about it, FGT.

Actually, what I should say is 'tell me about it, really'. As part of my research I would be interested to hear about your experiences. cat me if you are in the city and would like to discuss over a coffee. 70 hours! FFS!


FriedGreenTomatoes · 03/01/2008 14:29

I'll have to sign up for CAT. Will get in touch, though I am not in Financial Services - does that matter for your research?

OP posts:

Squiffy · 03/01/2008 14:40

Would still be interested - research is at early enough stage for me to move the goalposts, and am intrigued as to an organisation that can have you doing 70 hours on a part-time basis....

If you aren't set up for cat you can mail me on whiffy33 at hotmail dot com (but I won't get it till tonight when I'm home from work...)

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