A Boston financial adviser was awarded $1.63 million by an arbitrator for gender discrimination and retaliation at UBS Financial Services Inc. her lawyer announced Monday.
The adviser, Christine Carona, who worked at UBS from 2009 to 2017, was repeatedly denigrated, disregarded, and penalized by her supervisor, James Ducey, according to the arbitration ruling.
Unlike her male counterparts, she was not reassigned accounts from departing advisers and was not allowed to list her inclusion on Forbes’s annual ranking of the top 200 women wealth advisers in her e-mail signature. Ducey called Carona a “bitch” on multiple occasions, according to testimony by Ducey’s former assistant, and publicly recognized another financial adviser, a man, for developing the most new relationships in 2016 when in fact Carona had a much higher number.
Ducey asked Carona’s husband when she planned to retire. She was 53 at the time.
Carona complained internally about Ducey’s treatment of her four times from August 2015 to May 2017, prompting Ducey to respond that he was being attacked and harassed, according to the ruling.
A few hours after the last complaint, Ducey instituted a policy that applied specifically to Carona’s clients and dramatically changed the way her business had been handled for the past eight years.
During her tenure at UBS, Carona developed a specialty managing the assets of people with special needs — many of them children injured by accidents or medical malpractice.
The new policy required unanimous consent from all trustees to approve transactions, which made it “extraordinarily difficult” to serve her clients, according to the ruling.
The policy was soon revised again to require consent from only a majority of trustees until the paperwork could be updated.
And Carona, the top-performing female financial adviser in Boston during that time, was tasked with updating the paperwork for more than 150 trust accounts, something Carona feared would make it appear she had done something wrong and drive her clients away.
The retaliation offered “further evidence that UBS was executing Mr. Ducey’s desire to have Ms. Carona leave UBS,” the arbitrator wrote.
These changes “blew up” her business, according to Carona’s testimony cited in the ruling, and she left UBS a few months later. The arbitrator, who is not named, wrote:
“I conclude that Ms. Carona was treated differently from similarly-situated males during her UBS employment and consequently she has shown that respondents discriminated against her on the basis of her gender. My conclusion is buttressed by Mr. Ducey’s increasing animosity towards her as shown by his crude, often sexist comments.”
UBS said it “is committed to providing a diverse and inclusive workplace for all our employees. We disagree with the arbitrator’s decision.”
Awards for employment discrimination claims have been rising in Massachusetts in the #MeToo era, said David Brody, an employment lawyer at Sherin and Lodgen. Juries have been awarding punitive damages — to punish wrongdoers — more frequently and in higher amounts, he said, including a $3 million ruling in 2018 for a female employee of a Norwood car dealership who experienced gender discrimination and sexual harassment.
The arbitrator ruled punitive damages were not warranted in Carona’s case, however; she was compensated for attorneys fees, costs, and losses she incurred when she left the firm. Carona, who now works for Morgan Stanley in Boston, declined to comment.
Her attorney, Dan Rabinovitz, of Murphy & King in Boston, said UBS’s treatment of her was “an upsetting and painful ordeal” and it took great courage for her to stand up to the financial giant. “Having an independent arbitrator recognize that she was discriminated against and retaliated against for raising the discrimination claims has given her closure, allowing her to move on,” he said. “The facts of this case were so egregious that I always believed when the evidence was presented to a fair, neutral arbitrator, we would prevail.”