Calling women ‘birds’ is ‘plainly sexist’, judge rules at tribunal of Barclays investment banker who wins sex discrimination claim against boss who repeatedly used word

  • Judge John Crosfill ruled calling women ‘birds’ as ‘plainly sexist’ and ‘misplaced’
  • Ruling came in a case between Barclays investment banker against her boss
  • She won sex discrimination claim after her boss repeatedly called women ‘birds’

Calling women ‘birds’ is ‘plainly sexist’ and it is ‘foolish’ to use the term even jokingly, a judge has ruled.

Judge John Crosfill said using the phrase ironically at work in an attempt at humour is ‘misplaced’.

The ruling came in the case of a Barclays investment banker who won a sex discrimination claim after her boss repeatedly called women ‘birds’.

Anca Lacatus said James Kinghorn continued to use the term even after she told him to stop as he was trying to make her feel uncomfortable, a tribunal heard.

Calling women ‘birds’ is ‘plainly sexist’ and it is ‘foolish’ to use the term even jokingly, a judge has ruled in a case of a Barclays investment banker, who won a sex discrimination claim after her boss repeatedly referred to women by the name (stock image)

Mr Kinghorn defended his use of the word by saying he was being light-hearted but the tribunal ruled the term is ‘plainly sexist,’ and it was ‘foolish’ to think anyone would find it funny.

The East London tribunal heard that Ms Lacatus would have been reluctant to complain about her boss’s sexist language out of fear it would have been damaging to her career.

She is now set to receive compensation for his treatment of her.

The Romanian worked as a £46,000 a year analyst for Barclays in what was her first job in investment banking after completing an Investments and Finance master’s as Queen Mary University in London.

In a statement, Ms Lacatus said her boss Mr Kinghorn referred to a female employee as a ‘bird’ in February 2018.

She said that she immediately told him off for using the phrase but he then continued to say it in an effort to make her feel uncomfortable.

And Mr Kinghorn told her she should not report him to HR for referring to women in such an offensive way, she said.

The tribunal heard Mr Kinghorn assumed Ms Lacatus saw his use of the word ‘bird’ as light-hearted banter and that he was joking about reporting the behaviour to HR.

But, at the tribunal he accepted his language had been inappropriate and the judge branded it as plainly sexist.

Judge John Crosfill said: ‘The use of the phrase ‘bird’ was a misplaced use of irony which inadvertently caused offence.

Anca Lacatus said James Kinghorn continued to use the term even after she told him to stop as he was trying to make her feel uncomfortable, the East London tribunal (pictured) heard

‘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).’

Judge Crosfill said that Mr Kinghorn did not set out to deliberately offend Ms Lacatus but that he used the word more often than he was prepared to admit.

The tribunal also ruled that Ms Lacatus would have been reluctant to speak out about her boss’s sexist language at the time as she would have been worried about the damage it could do to her career.

It said: ‘We have regard to the fact that this was Ms Lacatus’ first job in investment banking.

Ms Lacatus was signed off in January 2019 and was later made redundant by the bank. A hearing to decide compensation will take place at a later date (stock image)

‘As such, we would accept that she would be keen to do well and did not want to be seen as a troublemaker.

‘We find that Ms Lacatus would have been reluctant to raise the issue of Mr Kinghorn’s sexist language for fear that her career would be damaged if she did.’

At the tribunal, Ms Lacatus also won her claim that Barclays failed to accommodate her request to adjust her working hours because she suffered from endometriosis and anxiety.

Ms Lacatus was often expected to work late past 7pm and worked between 40 and 48 hours a week on average, the tribunal in London heard.

Judge Crosfill said: ‘As her illness progressed, Ms Lacatus became progressively more exhausted.

‘We accept that working as hard as the team did was tough on everybody but doing so whilst coping with endometriosis and stress and anxiety would make it much harder.

‘Being required to work for the long hours placed [Ms Lacatus] at a substantial disadvantage compared to others without a disability.

‘Barclays failure to adjust Ms Lacatus’ hours is in our view a serious act of discrimination and one that was exceedingly thoughtless.’

Ms Lacatus was signed off in January 2019 and was later made redundant by the bank.

A hearing to decide compensation will take place at a later date.

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