England: architect wins six figure damages claim for sexist bullying at work
A female architect has received hundreds of thousands of pounds in damages following a court’s ruling she was subjected to sexist bullying at work.
Julie Humphryes was accused by male colleagues of “exhibiting maternity paranoia” at the firm YOO, prompting her to take her employer to court and winning damages of £250,000.
Ms Humphryes, whose salary was £105,000 a year at the company, claimed colleagues marginalised her after she went on maternity leave in 2012 to have her second child.
But an employment tribunal heard yesterday that Ms Humphryes faced “patronising and sexist” comments while in meetings and that she was treated detrimentally because of her pregnancy.
The court heard she was not recognised for her contribution to the design of a residential development in the Cotswolds.
After complaining about the fact that only a male colleague was credited in magazine coverage of the build the company’s chief executive, Chris Boulton, said to another colleague that Ms Humphryes was “exhibiting maternity paranoia”.
Mr Boulton told the court that Ms Humphryes was “exhibiting insecurity because she was away from the office and not in touch with what was going on”.
In addition, Ms Humphryes said she had been discriminated against by the John Hitchcox, the firm’s co-founder who asked her in a meeting if she “really wanted to be a supermum” because he “had in mind the extensive travelling involved in the job, and the fact she had on occasion taken her first child with her on foreign trips”
Tribunal chairman, Dr Simon Auerbach, ruled Ms Humphryes resigned in March 2013 for various reasons but that sexist bullying had been the “last straw”.
He agreed she was subjected to “detrimental treatment” and added that Mr Hitchcox’s comment was “reasonably viewed as a detriment and amounted to unfavourable treatment because of pregnancy or maternity”.
The chairman added: “We accepted from Mr Boulton that his general point was that being out of the office might be making her oversuspicious about what may be going on at work without her knowledge.
“Nevertheless, the specific phrase ‘maternity paranoia’ has the pejorative tone expressly linked to maternity being the reason for the absence. This was, we found, indeed unfavourable treatment.”
However, Ms Humphryes’ claim she was not paid the same as male colleagues was dismissed on the grounds it was “not well founded”.
The tribunal ruled she had contributed to her own dismissal and reduced her damages by ten per cent to £246,000.