Calling women 'birds' at work is sexist, tribunal rules

21 September 2021, 11:54

Barclays were sued after a member of staff referred to a female employee as "bird"
Barclays were sued after a member of staff referred to a female employee as "bird". Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

Referring to women as "birds" constitutes "sexist language", an employment tribunal has ruled.

Anca Lacatus sued Barclays after her manager, James Kinghorn, used the word to refer to a female colleague in February 2018 and then several more times, despite Ms Lacatus immediately telling him he should not use it.

In her witness statement, Ms Lacatus also said he said on one occasion: "Do not report me to HR."

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Mr Kinghorn said he might have used the word on two occasions, but the tribunal concluded that it was "likely that the expression was used more often than James Kinghorn is prepared to admit".

Employment Judge John Crosfill upheld Ms Lacatus' claim of sex discrimination.

Judge Crosfill noted that the use of the word 'bird' was "intended to be humorous", something they said was "consistent" with Mr Kinghorn asking not to be reported to HR.

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However Judge Crosfill also said the three-person panel "consider that it was very foolish to assume that anybody else would find this language amusing" and said that the word "inadvertently cause offence" to Ms Lacatus.

They ruled the language was inappropriate – something that Judge Crosfill said "in the cold light of the tribunal room [Mr Kinghorn] readily accepted".

There will be another hearing later in the year to decide how much compensation Ms Lacatus should receive.

Ms Lacatus also made a number of other complaints, including that her employer failed to make reasonable adjustments to her working hours after she become unwell – a complaint that was also upheld.

The judge concluded the failure to adjust Ms Lacatus' hours was "a serious act of discrimination" and "exceedingly thoughtless".

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However a number of others were rejected, including for unfair dismissal and breach of contract.

Barclays said of Friday's ruling: "An inclusive and respectful culture is critically important to us.

"We agree that the language used was inappropriate and not acceptable, as does the individual who used it."