While the media and users of social media have exposed numerous cases of sexual harassment in the US of late, Asia has its share of sexual misconduct and the region’s corporations are not immune to such improprieties.
A junior staffer who identifies herself as Carole—the then 24-year-old trainee—was quoted recently by French newspaper Liberation as saying she was sexually harassed by a senior banker at the Hong Kong office of BNP Paribas in 2012 when she was on secondment, according to a report by Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post.
She was cited as reporting that the senior banker—identified by the French newspaper as Aurelien G.—repeatedly harassed her. Incidents included asking her to perform an intimate sex act on him and to masturbate when he was speaking to her.
Lawyer: the bank never appeared to see sexual misconduct as a cause for dismissal
The trainee reported the incidents to the human resources department, which said it would resolve the issue internally, according to the SCMP report, which also cited the French report as saying that the perpetrator was reprimanded, paid a fine, had annual bonus withdrawn but remains employed by the bank and is rumored to be working elsewhere in Asia.
While the bank’s spokesperson declined to comment, its Asia Pacific chief executive Eric Raynaud responded to the matter in an internal staff memo, the SCMP report said.
“Five years on … we have raised our expectations and have a complete zero-tolerance policy to contribute to the eradication of such cases,” SCMP quoted Raynaud as saying in the memo. “Today, the level of sanctions for such behaviors would be higher.”
This was criticized by Charles Morel, a Paris lawyer representing Carole. “What is striking is that at no point did BNP Paribas appear to think that it was appropriate that sexual harassment, including actions that could be treated as sexual assault, could be seen as cause for dismissal, particularly when the person involved is at the top of the hierarchy,” Morel was cited by Liberation as saying in a statement.