Judge rules calling women ‘birds’ is sexist after banker’s discrimination claim

An employment tribunal judge said calling women “birds” is “plainly sexist” and branded the Barclays Bank graduate analyst’s boss foolish for thinking anyone would find the term funny

Barclay’s Bank was reprimanded over its treatment of the graduate analyst in her first year on the job (file photo)

A judge has ruled calling women “birds” is “plainly sexist” after a former Barclays banker took the firm on in a discrimination claim.

The investment banker won her legal challenge against her former workplace where her boss repeatedly used the term to describe women.

Anca Lacatus said James Kinghorn continued to use the term despite her repeated requests for him to stop, an employment tribunal heard.

She said he was trying to make her feel uncomfortable during her first job in banking after graduating from university.

Mr Kinghorn defended his use of the word by claiming he assumed she saw it as light-hearted banter, according to reports.

But the tribunal in East London ruled calling women “birds” is “plainly sexist”, as a judge said it was “foolish” to use the term in an attempt at irony and think anyone would find it funny.

The judge said the bank was ‘thoughtless’ in not allowing the employee to adjust her hours due to her poor health


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The former bank employee is now set to receive compensation over her treatment.

The tribunal heard she had immediately responded to the manager for using the phrase after hearing him first refer to a female employee as a “bird” in February 2018.

But Mr Kinghorn went on to continue to say it repeatedly and reportedly told she should not mention it to HR.

He is later said to have told her he thought she would view the language as banter and that he was joking about not reporting his use of the term to HR.

The tribunal heard he had since accepted his language had been inappropriate.

Judge John Crosfill said: “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. The language is plainly sexist (whether misplaced irony or not).”

The judge said he accepted that Mr Kinghorn did not set out to deliberately offend the junior staff-member and that it took some time for the junior employee to be sufficiently blunt enough for him to get the message.

But the tribunal found she would have been reluctant to complain about her boss’ language out of fear it would have been damaging to her budding career as a £46,000-a-year graduate analyst.

The tribunal also found against Barclays for failing to change her working hours to accommodate her painful endometriosis condition, as well as anxiety.

The tribunal heard Ms Lacatus was often left exhausted as she was expected to stay long past 7pm and worked between 40-48 hours a week on average while her illness progressed.

Judge Crosfill said Barclays’ decision not to adjust her working hours put her at a serious disadvantage compared to workers without a disability.

He added the bank’s failure to accommodate her illness was ‘serious’ and ‘exceedingly thoughtless’ case of discrimination.

The judge found that while the junior employee’s whole team worked hard, doing so whilst coping with endometriosis, stress and anxiety made the job even tougher.

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

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

The Mirror has approached Barclays for comment.

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