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21st Sep 2021

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

Charlie Herbert

Use of term "birds" to refer to women is sexist, judge rules in barclays tribunal case

The judge added that it is ‘foolish’ to use the term even jokingly

A judge has ruled that calling women “birds” is plainly sexist and that using the term ironically is a “misplaced” attempt at humour.

Judge John Crosfill was ruling on the case of a Barclays investment banker who won a sex discrimination claim after her boss repeatedly called female employees “birds.”

The Mail reports that Anca Lacatus told the tribunal that her boss, James Kinghorn, continued to use the term even after she had asked him to stop in an attempt to make her feel uncomfortable.

Kinghorn defended his use of the word, arguing that he was being light-hearted but the tribunal ruled that the term is “plainly sexist,” and that it was “foolish” to use it even in a joking sense and think that anyone would find it funny.

Lacatus is now set to receive compensation for the way she was treated by Kinghorn.

Her job as an analyst was her first in investment banking after completing a Master’s in Investment and Finance at Queen Mary University in London

In a statement she said that her boss first used the term “bird” to refer to a female employee in February 2018. She said that she immediately told him not to use the term but that he ignored her and continued to use the word in an attempt to make her feel uncomfortable.

He then apparently told her to not report him to human resources for it.

The tribunal heard that Kinghorn assumed his use of the word was accepted as banter and that he was joking about telling Lacatus not to report it to HR.

At the tribunal in East London, he did accept his language had been inappropriate.

Judge John Crosfill accepted that Kinghorn had not deliberately looked to cause offence, describing his use of the word as a “misplaced use of irony.”

Crosfill continued: “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).”

It was also found that Lacatus would have been reluctant to initially report the incident due to fears that it would negatively impact her career.

The tribunal also ruled that Barclays failed to accommodate Lacatus’ request to adjust her working hours because she suffered from anxiety and endometriosis.

Judge Crosfill described the bank’s refusal to adjust her hours, which often required Lacatus to work between 40 and 48 hours a week according to the Mail, as a “serious act of discrimination.”

A hearing will take place at a later date to decide how much compensation Lacatus should receive.

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