Splunk sales ace wins sex discrimination case after new boss handed her key accounts to blokes deemed 'flight risks'

UK sales chief treated her unequally, rules Employment Tribunal

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A Splunk saleswoman who brought in eight-figure deals has won a sex discrimination lawsuit against the data analytics 'n' SIEM vendor after she was "pushed aside for the old boys' network".

Nadine Lee left the US-headquartered company shortly after taking a six-month sabbatical – during which her key accounts were stripped from her by a newly hired sales director, who handed them to men he brought in during her absence.

Bosses at Splunk had agreed that Lee, who earned £744,000 in the year before her departure, would keep her accounts after she returned from sabbatical – yet she lost the ones that saw her bring in $22.7m for the company in fiscal 2018.

Judges at the Central London Employment Tribunal upheld Lee's complaint of sex discrimination in a ruling published late last week. It also found that she was constructively dismissed from Splunk.

In 2018 a newly hired UK sales director, Steven Gracey, reallocated Lee's accounts to newly hired salesmen whom he thought might become a "flight risk". Even though the previous UK sales chief, Colin Ferguson, described Lee's performance as "incredible", Gracey took her accounts off her to ensure the salesmen he had brought in didn't quit.

One of those salesmen was Raj Dosanjh, a former colleague of Gracey's from his time at Adobe. Dosanjh, who was of the same seniority as Lee, was hired on a higher basic salary than his female colleague. Lee had a £95,000 base salary with £190,000 in on-target earnings (OTE) commission, while Dosanjh was earning £110,000 in base and £220,000 OTE.

Although both Dosanjh and fellow salesman Mark Laws were seen as a "flight risk" by Gracey, the men got different treatment. As the tribunal judgment recounted:

But whereas Mr Gracey gave large accounts to two men to stop them leaving, he removed her three best accounts from the claimant and instead of offering her something large by way of compensation and good faith, he offered her a string of small and nondescript accounts.

"The claimant was a top performer, if not the top performer, in the EMEA division for many years," said Employment Judge Lewis, chairman of the three-strong tribunal panel. His full judgment is on GOV.UK.

The tribunal did not uphold Lee's claim that Splunk HR business partner Julie Ward had actively discriminated against her on the grounds of her sex, though Ward played a key role in the events leading to her resignation. Neither did it uphold the claim against former UK COO Guy Bloch.

Lee's compensation for discrimination and constructive dismissal has yet to be set, with the tribunal pencilling in a further hearing later this year for legal argument about it.

Splunk spokesman Alex Harking claimed in a one-line statement to The Register that the company "does not tolerate discrimination in any form", adding: "We are committed to fostering an inclusive environment." ®

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