The UK solicitors disciplinary tribunal has fined a Nigerian lawyer, Victor Nwosu, the sum of N24 million (£43,550) for making sexual comments to a female job seeker.
Victor Nwosu Fined Over Sexual Comments
Tribunal has fined the UK-based Nigerian solicitor £20,000 for his conduct and ordered him to pay additional costs of £23,550 after sexually objectifying a young paralegal seeking her first job by making demeaning comments about her appearance.
The 48-year-old lawyer was said to have repeatedly commented to the woman, who was interviewing for a paralegal role, about her looks and said “mmm, I like what I see” after asking her to turn around.
The 22-year-old woman, who has a first class degree and a masters, reported being “horrified” by the interview and said she felt “like a piece of meat”.
The woman was said to have been interviewed for a position at Nwosu’s north west London practice, Dylan Conrad Kreolle Solicitors, in 2018, following a recommendation from someone already working at the firm.
The lawyer reportedly arrived late for the interview and also left the room for around 10 minutes during which the woman sent messages to friends that she “felt scared” and that Nwosu had “repeatedly” told her how beautiful she was.
According to voice notes said to have been sent after the interview, the female applicant said: ; he said that I would only be working for him and nobody else.”
In messages to friends, she wrote: “He asked me if I have a boyfriend. He said that I was very very beautiful. He told me that I have to wear skirts when I come into work. He doesn’t like it when women wear trousers. He said that I would only be working for him and nobody else.”
“He was undressing me with his eyes and he kept leaning forward and I’d lean back. I felt like an object. I felt so small. God I’m actually crying. The owner of the firm is disgusting.”
The woman said she was the first woman in her family to go to university, adding that she rejected his job offer and reported him to regulators the next day to prevent other women being put in a similar ‘traumatic’ interview.
She said, “This is in no small part due to the unprofessional conduct displayed throughout the interview which led to me feeling uncomfortable.’
“The interview was quite traumatic for me, it was the first paralegal role that I had ever applied for. I felt so violated as he was in a position of power as I was in an interview… I went home and cried.”
However, Nwosu who said he is ‘happily married with teenage children’, denied the allegations and insisted the woman’s motive was related to the salary he offered her and the allegations were ‘brought about by malice’.
He told the hearing: “She has the power, her female activism, it’s female activism gone wrong, she has the power, that’s why I am here [because] she’s applied overt activism [and] I am the victim. She’s embarrassed me and brought me here, she has the power.”
Although he did admit to saying “mmm, I like what I see”, he said he was only referring to the applicant’s CV.
The lawyer also said the woman misunderstood him when he talked about wearing skirts, stating that it was the company’s dress code.
Nwosu said he always had ‘four to six women working for him’ and added: “I’m a very humble person, I hoover my own carpet in front of [the] staff.
“You want to put the words of Person A over the words of a solicitor of the Supreme Court, trained, qualified for 15 years, [who] employs six staff?
For you to insinuate this is very rude and upsetting. Person A is not someone you can believe.”
The tribunal, however, rejected Nwosu’s submissions and held that it found the interviewee’s claims to be “credible, consistent, reliable and persuasive”.
The tribunal went on to find, as an aggravating factor, that his misconduct was sexually motivated in his behaviour towards the woman, named only as Person A, when he interviewed her.
In considering sanction, it said that Nwosu’s actions had “caused extensive, direct harm to the reputation of the legal profession” and “represented a grave departure from the requisite standards of integrity, probity and trustworthiness that the public was entitled to expect from solicitors”.
The tribunal ordered Nwosu to pay a £20,000 fine for the “deplorable, unacceptable and discriminatory” behaviour, and also granted the application of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) for £23,500 in costs on the investigation into the matter.
According to the tribunal, the £20,000 fine would be forfeited to the Queen of England.