"Pushy" solicitor wins unfair dismissal tribunal

A London solicitor has been awarded £150,000 after successful claims of unfair dismissal, sex discrimination, inequality of pay and victimisation at an employment tribunal.

Helena Biggs won the case against her former employer, insurance firm A Billborough & Company, where she had worked for 13 years.

The tribunal heard that Briggs was paid less than her male colleague for five years after they were both promoted to an associate director role. 

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During her time at the company, Briggs was described as "pushy," "overly dominant" and "incredibly ambitious" by her bosses – terms the tribunal ruled would not be used to describe a man in Briggs' position.

Jemima Olchawski, chief executive of women's rights charity the Fawcett Society, said the case highlighted familiar experiences of women in the workplace.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: "This is another horrendous example of the pervasive sexism that remains entrenched in our workplaces – where women continue to be paid less than men for doing the same work and operating in structures that hold them back, rather than allowing them to succeed.

"While attitudes are changing, in many sectors, men still hold and perpetuate stereotypical beliefs and the use of gendered language remains commonplace at work, with women’s ambition and drive often used to discriminate and degrade."

Briggs was subjected to many derisory comments at work.

One director told a female employee to "keep her legs shut" after learning of Briggs' pregnancy, while another said that Briggs' friendship with a female client was due to them being a lesbian.

The employer claimed that Briggs was sacked due to irreconcilable differences with colleagues, but the tribunal ruled that the dismissal happened on the grounds of Briggs' protected disclosures.

Briggs was also given a heavy workload with near impossible objectives by her bosses.

Olchawski added: "Employers should be challenging sexist stereotypes, not perpetuating them. Creating a culture where women are valued and respected will help them close their gender pay gap as well as creating more productive, successful and profitable workplaces."