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Calling women ‘birds’ is ‘downright sexist’, judge rules

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Calling women “birds” is “downright sexist” and “foolish” to use the term even in jest, a judge has ruled.

Judge John Crosfill said using the phrase ironically at work in an attempt at humor is “misguided.”

The ruling came in the case of a Barclays investment banker who won a gender 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 because he was trying to make her feel uncomfortable, a tribunal heard.

Calling women “birds” is “downright sexist” and it is “foolish” to even use the term in jest. the name (stock image)

Kinghorn defended his use of the word, saying he was lighthearted, but the tribunal ruled that the term is “downright sexist,” and it was “foolish” to think anyone would find it funny.

The East London tribunal heard that Ms Lacatus had been reluctant to complain about her boss’s sexist language, fearing it would harm her career.

She will now receive compensation for his treatment of her.

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

In a statement, Ms Lacatus said her boss, Mr Kinghorn, called a female employee a “bird” in February 2018.

She said she immediately discouraged him because he had used the phrase, but he kept saying it in an attempt to make her feel uncomfortable.

And Mr Kinghorn told her not to report him to HR because he refers to women in such an abusive way, she said.

The tribunal heard that Mr. Kinghorn assumed Ms. Lacatus saw his use of the word “bird” as light-hearted chatter and that he was joking about reporting the behavior to HR.

But at the tribunal, he acknowledged that his language had been inappropriate and the judge labeled it downright sexist.

Judge John Crosfill said: ‘The use of the expression ‘bird’ was a misguided use of irony that inadvertently led to insult.

Anca Lacatus said James Kinghorn continued to use the term even after telling him to stop because he tried to make her feel uncomfortable, East London tribunal heard (pictured)

Anca Lacatus said James Kinghorn continued to use the term even after telling him to stop because he tried to make her feel uncomfortable, East London tribunal heard (pictured)

“We accept that when this was pointed out… [Mr Kinghorn], he eventually got the message and stopped trying to be funny.

“We believe it was very foolish to assume that anyone else would find this language amusing.

“We find that it probably took some time for Mrs. Lacatus to be blunt enough to get the message across.

“The language is downright sexist (whether misplaced irony or not).”

Judge Crosfill said Mr Kinghorn had no intention of intentionally insulting Mrs Lacatus, but that he used the word more often than he was willing 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, because she was concerned about the damage it could do to her career.

It read, “We take into account that this was Ms. Lacatus’ first job in investment banking.

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

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

“As such, we accepted that she wanted to do well and not be seen as a troublemaker.

“We believe 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 had not complied with her request to adjust her working hours because she suffered from endometriosis and anxiety.

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

Judge Crosfill said: “As her illness progressed, Mrs. Lacatus became more and more exhausted.

“We accept that working as hard as the team did was difficult for everyone, but if we do it while dealing with endometriosis, stress and anxiety, it would become much more difficult.

‘To have to work long hours’ [Ms Lacatus] significantly disadvantaged compared to others without disabilities.

“Barclay’s failure to adjust Ms. Lacatus’ hours is, in our view, grave discrimination and an extremely thoughtless act.”

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

A hearing to decide on damages will be held at a later date.

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