Referring To Women As ‘Birds’ Ruled As ‘Plainly Sexist’ By Judge
Calling women ‘birds’ is ‘plainly sexist’ even if said as a joke, a judge has ruled in a sex discrimination claim brought by a woman whose boss repeatedly referred to her by the term.
The slang term – which is used almost exclusively by men – was deemed by the judge to be offensive ‘whether misplaced irony or not’. The case was brought by a Barclay’s investment banker who claimed her boss continued to use the term even after she asked him not to, and told her not to report him to HR.
Anca Lacatus claimed that James Kinghorn began referring to her as ‘bird’ in 2018, and in spite of her ‘immediately’ telling him it made her uncomfortable, he failed to stop until after she had filed an official HR complaint.
The Daily Mail reports that Kinghorn defended himself by claiming he saw the interactions as ‘light-hearted banter’ and was joking when he told Lacatus not to report him.
However, Judge John Crossfill said in his ruling:
The use of the phrase ‘bird’ was a misplaced use of irony which inadvertently caused offence.
We accept that when this was pointed out to [Mr Kinghorn], he ultimately got the message and stopped trying to be funny. We consider that it was very foolish to assume that anybody else would find this language amusing. We find that it is likely that it took some time before Ms Lacatus was sufficiently blunt that the message hit home.
The language is plainly sexist (whether misplaced irony or not).
The employment tribunal additionally found that as a new employee in her first job in investment banking, Lacatus likely did not feel like she was in a position to raise concerns about her boss ‘for fear that her career would be damaged if she did’.
Lacatus also won an additional claim that Barclay’s failed to let her adjust her working hours after she made requests as a result of health conditions including endometriosis and anxiety, with Judge Crossfill labelling the company’s decision ‘a serious act of discrimination and one that was exceedingly thoughtless’.
Lacatus no longer works for Barclay’s after being made redundant in 2019, with compensation for the two claims set to be determined at a later hearing.
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