IFM Investors senior fund manager, Frederic Michel-Verdier, 50, learned the hard way how broad the "sexual harassment" definition has become when he had his bonus cut and was put on a 12 month "time out" from drinking at company events following a series of text messages he sent to 27-year-old co-worker, Nathalie Abildgaard.
Michel-Verdier is now facing an "employment tribunal" after Abildgaard claimed she felt "degraded" by his unsolicited advances and later suffered from panic attacks after Michel-Verdier spoke with her at work afterward. Abildgaard wound up suing IFM for
"constructive unfair dismissal" as a result, according to Bloomberg.
In retrospect, Michel-Verdier admitted that it was "irresponsible and naive" to send his hotel room number to a female colleague with a text saying “come )))” after a night of company-sponsored partying in Madrid while celebrating the closing of a deal. And yet, the 50-year-old claims he sent the number at her request, after she claimed she needed to tell the front desk who would be handling the bill for their trip.
“It was irresponsible and naïve to have allowed myself as a senior employee at IFM to be put in the position where my actions could be easily twisted and misrepresented. It is inconceivable that Nathalie genuinely misinterpreted my message either then or now," he said.
Maybe not: Abildgaard claimed that during the company party at Bling Bling nightclub in Madrid, Michel-Verdier said to her: "I am so much older than you. You are young. I can teach you a lot about sex."
Michel-Verdier later went on the offensive, somewhat ironically telling managers at IFM that they should review the company's "internal procedures and policies as well as training in order to guard against senior employees being open targets."
"While I am not a person who attaches much importance to hierarchy, I now believe that it is perhaps better as a senior
employee that I always maintain a professional distance with more junior employees and do not drink and socialize with them,"
According to the Daily Mail, after sanctioning Michel-Verdier, the "firm felt it could not 'reasonably conclude' that there had also been 'verbal unwanted and physical advances'."