Freehills has rejected claims that former lawyer Nicole Stransky suffered age discrimination and bullying during her two-year stint at the firm from 2006.
Stransky, who is now fifty years old, told Lawyers Weekly today that she will take on the top-tier firm at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, with a hearing scheduled for June.
She claims she suffered age discrimination and was continually bullied and harassed by supervising partners, despite raising the issue with the firm's human resources department.
A Freehills spokesperson said the firm is not in a position to comment on these matters as they will be before the courts, but said: "We strongly reject any claim that we have treated her unfairly."
A qualified psychologist, Stransky had a successful career in organisational development in human resources, before being admitted as a solicitor in May 2006 when she was a paralegal for Mallesons Stephen Jaques.
She began at Freehills in 2006 after being offered a full-time role as a first year competition lawyer, on a 12-month contract basis.
Her first year at Freehills was wonderful, according to Stranksy. "It really was fantastic. I was very passionate about law. I loved it," she said.
But it was in 2008 that Stransky became concerned that more work was being distributed to younger lawyers and that she was being excluded from large and complex matters, having a negative impact on her career development.
"Over several months I kept raising the issue, very politely, with my coach ... and he said I'd be allocated to the next merger...that didn't occur," she claimed.
"By February 2009 I'd become very concerned about my career development as a competition lawyer.
"I was humiliated a couple of times in team meetings when I had to report that I had no work," she said. "I felt terribly demoralised, particularly on days when I had no billable work at all."
After raising the issue with human resources, Stransky claimed the partners started behaving differently towards her, which she said constituted bullying and harassment. "They're very subtle behaviours," she explained.
According to Stransky the HR department listened to her issues but failed to address them and follow internal procedures.
It was at this point that Stransky said she started to become very ill and was diagnosed as having depression and anxiety.
Stransky said it "went on too long" and she claims she raised the issue with the director of HR, the CEO and the managing partner, but nothing changed.
With the outcome unknown until June this year, Freehills has said they will continue to support Stransky "wherever possible" and confirmed that she receives 75 per cent of her salary through their salary income protection insurance policy.
"We take great care in providing all our staff with the necessary support to progress their career," the spokesperson said.
"We provide all our staff with opportunities to succeed regardless of their age, gender, religious belief or sexual orientation."
- Briana Everett
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