HSBC Sued for Gender Discrimination, Unlawful Termination

HSBC is being sued by a former employee who claims he was discriminated against based on his gender and wrongfully terminated because of purportedly false accusations of sexual harassment.

Hassam Hariri worked for HSBC for 26 months as a vice president and senior product manager in its commercial banking division, according to the complaint. He claims he received positive feedback for his job performance. 

Hariri claims that HSBC “accused [him] of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct with female colleagues, causing him to be disciplined more harshly and treated less favorably than female employees.” He claims that he was wrongfully terminated “without evidence of wrongdoing, based upon gender discrimination, which stemmed from a false accusation of sexual harassment made by a female colleague . . . .”

HSBC began an investigation into allegations that Hariri asked colleagues to go one a date with him using the messaging application, WhatsApp, according to the complaint. Hariri denied the conduct but did concede that he occasionally communicated with colleagues using the app.

Instead of being the instigator of harassment, Hariri claims he was the victim of it.  He claims a female coworker messaged him, “hi sexy,” instigated conversations with him regarding hesitations about her upcoming marriage and later complained about the marriage, shared that her husband liked Japanese pornography, made unsolicited comments about her menstrual cycle, asked if his son was circumcised, told him he remained her first choice as a husband, invaded his personal space, and made comments that made him uncomfortable.

As the investigation into the claims against Hariri continued, HSBC informed him that he must work from home until its conclusion. In March 2017 a supervisor advised Hariri that he had violated HSBC’s positive work environment policy and he was subsequently terminated. Hariri claims he was told that he had violated the policy by sexually harassing a colleague but was not provided with any evidence of his alleged misconduct.

Hariri believes that HSBC “terminated [him] due to his gender, and utilized the false accusation of sexual harassment as a basis to conceal its discriminatory animus against him,” and that it treated him “differently as compared to similarly-situated female employees.”

Hariri is represented by Nina Ovrutsky of New York City who brought the case in the Southern District of New York.