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Barclays executive denies discrimination in employee case

Illustration shows Barclays Bank logo

By Nell Mackenzie

LONDON (Reuters) - Barclays' former Global Head of Race at Work has defended her decision not to investigate further an employee complaint alleging racial, religious and sex discrimination at the British bank, an employment tribunal in London heard on Wednesday.

Nazia Lawrence, a Barclays vice president, is suing the British bank for about 230,000 pounds ($290,000), alleging she was passed over for promotion because of the discrimination.

Lawrence works in execution services, a back office part of the bank that helps to implement post-crisis risk management rules. It also handles risk and controls.

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Azura Mason, previously the Global Head of Race at Work and now a director in the investment bank's chief compliance office, reviewed an internal appeal that Lawrence made after she became dissatisfied with the preliminary inquiry the bank had made into her complaints.

Mason said she saw no suggestion of favoritism or discrimination or bullying and therefore, decided not to investigate further.

"It was a matter that was deeply important to me...to not leave an employee or colleague feeling as if I hadn't investigated the situation," Mason said.

It was sufficient to interview Lawrence and the three managers who were the subject of the complaint, rather than a wider list of employees, she said.

Barclays declined to comment.

Lawrence claims she was treated less favourably than white male colleagues at the same professional level, who were promoted while she was not, court filings show.

When a director-level job became available, she told managers she wanted to apply, the court heard.

She was told that as a London-based employee, giving her the job would be too costly for the bank and for a promotion, she should either move or seek new employment.

Then, a white male London-based colleague applied and received the promotion, the court heard.

"It seems rather curious that once he left this role, it was split and then wasn't in London. This exception was made because he was a white, non-Muslim male," Sheila Aly, Lawrence's lawyer, said in her closing argument.

Barclay's Mason argued the promotion had been given with "very strong reasoning".

"Promotion is not a simple matter," said Adam Ohringer, a lawyer for Barclays.

If there was a difference between how Lawrence was treated to her colleagues, "there is nothing in this case at all that suggests this difference of treatment could have been because of difference in sex, race or religion," he said.

In addition to financial compensation, Lawrence has asked for recommendations of further training at Barclays and a transparent process to be outlined and adopted for promotions.

(This story has been corrected to fix the current title of the Barclays executive in paragraph 4 and to remove 'KC' from the lawyers' descriptions in paragraphs 13 and 15)

(Reporting by Nell Mackenzie; Editing Tommy Wilkes and Angus MacSwan)