US law firm White & Case has settled an employment tribunal claim from a former London partner who accused the firm of having a “toxic” culture.
Michael Wistow, the firm’s former head of tax, had taken the law firm to an employment tribunal for disability discrimination.
Wistow said the firm asked him to leave in May 2019 while he was suffering from depression and anxiety triggered by his wife’s battle with cancer and her death in August 2019.
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In its defence to his claim, White & Case said Wistow was asked to leave because of poor performance.
Wistow’s claim was the subject of a preliminary hearing at the London Central Employment Tribunal in May to decide whether he was disabled, and if so, for what time period.
The firm and Wistow have since settled the claim, a spokesperson for White & Case said.
“The parties settled this matter on confidential terms. We will not be commenting further,” the firm said in a statement.
Wistow’s claim said he was suffering from a disability from at least June 2019, which had an impact on his work and day-to-day tasks such as paying bills.
White & Case disputed Wistow’s claims and said that grief did not count as a disability.
“The respondents do not doubt… the genuineness of his feelings of sadness and grief as a result of this,” White & Case’s defence said. “However… sadness and grief are not disabilities as defined in the Equality Act.”
Wistow also criticised what he said was a “toxic” culture at the firm and the lack of empathy he received from his fellow partners, despite their knowledge of his wife’s illness.
White & Case’s defence said Wistow’s attempt to “traduce” the culture and partners of the firm was irrelevant to the case at hand.
An email dated 23 April 2019 between various unnamed White & Case partners — and which was included in Wistow’s claim — showed what he said was the lack of “compassion” he received.
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“I would hope that we are all able to continue to conduct ourselves professionally and not bring our personal issues into the office in any kind of manner that is disruptive to the group. Either MW [Michael Wistow] is the unluckiest man alive in his personal life that I have ever come across… or else he has a very active imagination,” the email said.
Wistow was previously a partner at law firms Clifford Chance and BLP. He joined White & Case in October 2016 and soon began experiencing what he called the “terrible environment” at the firm, according to his claim.
In its defence, the firm said: “Not only were his figures poor, but he failed to build harmonious working relationships with his colleagues.”
Wistow left White & Case in December 2020. He is now head of tax at law firm McCarthy Denning.
To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email James Booth