UK lawyer sues ABN Amro over racism, sexism; Zwarte Piet re-emerges as an issue
Angelina Cobbina, a 41-year-old black former top senior lawyer at Dutch banking giant ABN Amro in Great Britain, sued her former employer for £300,000 for sex, race, and religious discrimination. Cobbina claimed she was systematically hounded out of the company ever since she met her new line manager, Paul Schuilwerve, in September 2012.
At the time the lawyer chose not to file a complaint, because she did not want to come across as a troublemaker of overly sensitive. When Cobbina finally filed a complaint about Schuilwerve's behavior, the bank conducted an 'internal investigation' keeping Schuilwerve appraised of the developments. Soon after, in February 2013, Cobbina was told she would be dismissed due to a re-organization in the company. The former top lawyer also believes to have suffered a miscarriage due to all the stress she's been subjected to. After being subjected to another string of bullying practices during a meeting on January 30, last year, she miscarried that night. Although she admits she can't be certain that is the reason, in her mind she made that connection and still does. What started as a remark, in September 2012, about a photo where Schuilwerve claimed he couldn't see the lawyer, referring to her skin color, continued with what Cobbina felt was a targeted campaign to remove her from the company. Her work was systematically questioned, including remarks about her personal belief, conduct, and appearance. Schuilwerve, who is of Dutch descent, is known to have supported the Black Pete petition on Facebook, despite the tradition being condemned by the United Nations as racist. Cobbina's lawyer, Jack Feeney, questioned Schuilwerve about his support for the page, pointing out some people consider it racist. Schuilwerve, a father of three himself, insists the St. Nicholas tradition has nothing to do with racism, it's a children's festival, and assures he has zero tolerance for discrimination. In fact, he feels hurt by the allegations of racism against his person. Schuilwerve and the bank deny all allegations. The employment tribunal is scheduled to last 10 day.