UK trader sues his firm for mental-health discrimination
Adam Glover Bailie says HR was hostile and unsupportive after he was diagnosed as unfit for work following the 2018 sell-off
London — The head of equities and fixed income at Archer Daniels Midland’s UK brokerage is suing the company, saying it pushed him aside when he became ill after working excessive hours in his short-handed department.
Adam Glover Bailie, who had worked for the unit for 22 years, was diagnosed with clinical depression in January 2018. A month later, after working long hours to manage funds of the company and clients during wild swings in the markets, he was prescribed anti-depressants.
That May, he was given temporary medical leave for work-related stress, and in August, the then 46-year-old trader was given permanent leave. He hasn’t worked since. He’s now suing ADM Investor Services International (ADSMI) and its MD, Fabian Somerville-Cotton, for disability discrimination, harassment and victimisation in a London employment tribunal.
Employment tribunal cases are often a window into the stressful world of trading, where volatility can roll quickly from market to market, and high salaries can bring pressure to keep profits flowing.
“The facts of my client’s case are a timely reminder to the financial services industry that urgent steps are needed to safeguard its workforce’s mental health and well-being,” Bailie’s lawyer Shazia Khan said. “It is of enormous disappointment to my client, a highly successful and well-regarded professional and head of equities and fixed income at ADMSI, that he suffered a mental-health breakdown due to his working environment, which caused his disability.”
ADMSI declined to comment on the lawsuit. ADMSI’s lawyer, Thomas Kibling, told the employment tribunal that Bailie didn’t inform executives of his diagnosis until May 2018 and the firm had no knowledge it was work related until September. HR executives were in regular contact with Bailie while he was off, according to Kibling.
Adam Glover Bailie’s mental-health issues began in 2016 due to increased workload as a result of having to fulfill multiple roles
Bailie said he made his supervisors aware of the stress he was feeling but didn’t immediately tell them about his clinical-depression diagnosis for fear of losing his job.
Some of Bailie’s health issues came after market volatility in 2018. On February 6, the S&P 500 had one of its most volatile days since 2015. The market moves were part of a global sell-off that triggered panic in trading rooms.
Bailie worked until 11pm the night before, then drove back to the office at 2am to “undertake urgent damage limitation work on behalf of clients”, having received no help from the firm’s risk department, he said in his witness statement presented Thursday to the London court. He manually calculated margins for his customers while trying to speak to clients and to close positions so as to limit losses. The work was “both extremely physically and emotionally taxing and draining”, he said.
In British employment cases, an award is capped at just above £80,000 unless a worker can show discrimination or that they were fired for blowing the whistle on improper actions.
Bailie’s mental-health issues began in 2016 due to increased workload as a result of having to fulfill multiple roles. After being promoted to run the department in 2017, he told head of HR Gillian Phillips about the stress on his team and suffered a breakdown, he said.
Bailie said Phillips was hostile and unsupportive after he was diagnosed as unfit for work following the 2018 sell-off. Somerville-Cotton told his colleagues in an e-mail that Bailie would continue in a senior leadership role but that another employee would take on the role of co-head of the department with overall responsibility of the team.
Bailie said he heard about the change from colleagues while he was away, and that it was in direct contrast to the assurance he’d received from HR, making him feel undermined, bullied, targeted and harassed, he said. He said Somerville-Cotton was trying to drive him out.
Somerville-Cotton denies the claim and said the pair had discussed “basic structural plans” for the team before telling colleagues of the role changes. The co-head was only put in place to support Bailie while he was out sick and he only ever tried to help him, the MD said in his witness statement.
Bailie continues to suffer from migraines, impaired vision, nausea, insomnia, reduced motivation as well as negative thoughts. He’s often unable to get out of bed, leave the house or make breakfast for himself, he told the tribunal.
A separate remedies hearing will be held to determine cost of damages if Bailie’s claim is successful.