A married solicitor used his role on a gender committee to harass female colleagues for more than a year, a landmark tribunal found.
Oliver Bretherton, 41, a lawyer at a top City firm, is understood to be the first solicitor to be expelled from the profession for non-criminal sexual misconduct in the workplace.
He engaged in a “sexual fantasy relationship” with an 18-year-old junior colleague, sending her explicit messages and instructions about what clothes to wear, a tribunal heard.
The teenager was one of three women who were subjected to unwanted attention by the solicitor, who has now been struck off after a Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal found he had committed 70 acts of sexual misconduct.
Mr Bretherton, who was married and aged 36 at the time of the misconduct, which started in 2017, is said to have taken advantage of his junior colleague, known as Person A, for more than a year.
He sent her a video of himself performing a solo sex act and threw ping-pong balls into her top, the tribunal found.
Its written judgment outlines how Mr Bretherton abused his position of authority and showed a “demonstrable theme of misogyny directed at young women”.
The tribunal also found that his position on the firm’s gender inequality committee had been “advanced in an attempt to camouflage and detract from his nefarious conduct”.
It added: “Mr Bretherton’s misconduct was intrusive, indecent and took place both at work and outside of work.
“While the tribunal accepted that Person A wanted to be noticed within the firm, Mr Bretherton took advantage of her age, naivete and the fact that it was her first job after leaving school.”
Mr Bretherton met Person A during a job interview when she was studying for her A-levels.
The pair began exchanging WhatsApp messages around a month after she joined international law firm Gowling WLG, where Mr Bretherton worked.
He characterised these interactions as “consensual sexual fantasy”, with the exception of one occasion when they kissed.
Their messaging continued for a year before coming to a halt, and she reported the misconduct to the firm around 11 months later.
‘Made her wear a sex toy’
During the tribunal, 77 allegations against Mr Bretherton were examined, some of which involved two other women in their early 20s.
The tribunal found evidence supporting 70 allegations, including that Mr Bretherton inquired about the sex lives of Person A’s friends.
Mr Bretherton masturbated over a picture sent by Person A, insisted she wear skirts and dresses to work, and discussed colleagues with her, ranking them based on their perceived performance in bed.
The tribunal found that Mr Bretherton had made Person A wear a sex toy while in the office and that on one occasion, during a work drinks night, he expressed a desire to have sex with her on the pool table.
Mr Bretherton’s misconduct began in March 2017, the month he married in a traditional Scottish ceremony, and lasted until January 2019, the tribunal found.
Legal director salaries at Gowling WLG are typically just under £80,000, according to the Glassdoor jobs website.