Barrister Sven Mary: "I won’t employ any more women"

On the eve of Women’s Day the well-known Brussels barrister Sven Mary has said in an interview with the daily ‘Het Laatste Nieuws’ that his practice doesn’t take on any new female solicitors. This is because of a negative experience in the past. However, a number of experts have said that Mr Mary’s words contravene anti-discrimination laws.  

Mr Mary is one of three so-called “alpha males” interviewed by the paper about how they function in the post-#metoo age. Mr Mary stresses that he has always behaved appropriately to women and he has every sympathy with the #metoo movement.

Sven Mary has been the barrister at some high profile cases and is the solicitor of the Paris attack’s terror suspect Salah Abdeslam. In the interview Mr Mary says that it is a shame that he won’t employ any female solicitors as “a lot of able and intelligent ladies graduate”.

"But I had a problem with an intern that claimed that I gave her a poor assessment because she had failed to respond to my advances and I don’t want to expose myself to the same risks again. Of course her allegations led nowhere as they were based on nothing”. 

"This can cost him six month’s gross earning”

Mr Mary’s comment could cost him dear as some experts believe that they raise legal issues. Refusing a candidate on the basis of their sex, gender identity, origin, handicap or sexual orientation is banned by law.  

The Flemish Gender Ombudswoman Annelies D'Espallier told VRT News that "The anti-discrimination law is breached as soon as someone says in public that they won’t employ someone from a particular group”.

“A woman that had been turned down for a job by Mr Mary could be take a civil court action against him. The sanction is normally the payment by the employer of 6 months gross salary”.   

The Ombudswoman adds that you don’t exclude risks by not taking on women as men also lodge complaints about inappropriate behaviour.

The Ombudswomen won’t be taking legal action against Mr Mary. Instead she intends to contact him to discuss the contents of his interview.

In any case it is not clear whether the Flemish Ombudswoman would be able to take action against Mr Mary as this would probably fall under the remit of the Federal Institute for Equality between Women and Men. 

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