News and Views
Lawyer, 41, is suing Dutch banking giant ABN Amro for sex, race and religious discrimination
- Angela Cobbina says she was ‘frozen out’ of Dutch banking giant ABN Amro
- Lawyer, 41, is suing for sex, race and religious discrimination
- She fears the stress of her ordeal could have contributed to her miscarriage
- Ms Cobbina claims firm’s UK chief executive Paul Schilwerve made repeated racist comments at her expense, employment tribunal told
- He strongly denies allegations of racism, but says he did support the controversial Dutch tradition of ‘Black Pete’ – condemned as racist by the UN
Angela Cobbina, 41, who was Dutch banking giant ABN Amro’s top lawyer in Britain, claims the firm’s UK chief executive Paul Schuilwerve made repeated racist comments at her expense and that led to her being ‘systematically frozen out’.
And she fears the stress of her ordeal could have contributed to her suffering a miscarriage early last year.
Now Ms Cobbina is suing the bank for a reported £300,000 for sex, race and religious discrimination over claims she was a victim of a ‘campaign’ of harassment.
A hearing at Central London Employment Tribunals today heard how Mr Schuilwerve strongly denies allegations of racism.
However, the tribunal heard he threw his support behind the controversial Dutch tradition of ‘Black Pete’.
The annual Christmas event, which involves white people ‘blacking up’ and parading through the streets, has been condemned as racist by the UN.
In documents presented to the tribunal, Ms Cobbina said Mr Schuilwerve began his racist abuse the first time he met her in September 2012.
During the meeting in London he looked at a colour picture of the lawyer and remarked: ‘We cannot even see you in the picture.’ The lawyer claimed the remark was clearly a reference to her skin colour.
‘I felt upset, humiliated and belittled by Mr Schuilwerve’s comment about my photo,’ she said in her witness statement.
‘I did not make a complaint about Mr Schuilwerve’s comment at the time because he had been my line manager for less than 2 weeks and I did not wish to be seen as a trouble maker or deemed “sensitive”.’
Ms Cobbina, of Streatham, south London, claims that over the next 12 months she was the ‘target of a campaign designed to remove or drive me from the business.’
She added: ‘I was variously excluded, overlooked, targeted for undue criticism (including in connection with my performance, conduct, appearance and personal belief) and otherwise treated differently from my colleagues.’
At a meeting the following June she claims Mr Schuilwerze again ‘taunted’ her about her race after one of their colleagues described himself as the ‘black sheep of the family’.
The tribunal heard that the Dutch executive had said: ‘Speaking of that, what about Blackfriars? Let’s talk about all things black. Is Blackfriars the same as Blackadder?’