A big bank advisor, claiming his heavy workload led to mental health problems, has had his case rejected by an appeals tribunal.
Hashem Azary – who, after four years with the bank, was promoted in 2011 to a senior advisor position in the home loans division – claims that despite meeting his performance goals, his manager increasingly pressured him to meet unrealistic loan application targets, bullied and intimidated him.
On April 20, 2012, Azary says his boss gave him an ultimatum – accept a lower level position or be micro-managed with the threat of termination, if his results did not improve. Azary has not worked since then, claiming compensation since May 16, 2012, due to acute anxiety attacks and depression and being under the care of a psychiatrist.
“It can be very stressful,” one Ontario advisor, who wished to remain anonymous, told WP. “You are judged on how you perform and you are responsible.”
Azary’s employer, the National Australia Bank, argued in court that any action taken against Azary was done in a reasonable manner and that if he indeed suffers from a psychiatric condition it was not caused by his job. The bank went so far as filming Azary entering and leaving his house to prove that he was ‘sane,’ also pointing to the lucid way in which he answered the court’s questions. The court was told that Azary’s workload was not higher than any other advisor and that his performance had been slipping, despite being offered help from his manager.
Court documents indicate that some doctors, during their consultations, said Azary demonstrated “regressive behaviour” including walking stooped with his hands clasped in front of him, rocking continually in his seat, avoiding eye contact and speaking in a somewhat child-like voice. Azary said these symptoms started soon after the meeting with his manager and that he was unable to control the rocking.
Despite this, the tribunal concluded that, although Azary may have found his performance management process distressing, he was not suffering from a work-related injury and was not eligible for compensation.
Mounting pressure caused by long working hours, a burdening workload and demanding bosses has been a hot topic amongst wealth management professionals around the world, particularly with the influx of suicides on Wall Street from top bank executives to interns over the last few years.
Renowned firms including Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Credit Suisse Group, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Bank of America and Merrill Lynch have introduced new measures to alleviate stress, which include cutting back or eliminating weekend work and implementing task forces to help employees establish a work-life balance. In Canada, the Bank of Montreal is encouraging employees to get out of the office, asking senior staff to stop assigning work beyond 2 p.m. on Fridays.
- With files from Sophie Nicholls
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