A woman’s ‘blow job’ quip to a male employee was sexual discrimination, ruled an Employment Tribunal. This case is unusual in that the roles were reversed and it was a man who complained of the sex discrimination.
In Elworthy v Your-Move.Co.UK Ltd May 2017, the Employment Tribunal agreed that the remark by manager Ms Sarah Thompson made sales consultant, P Elworthy, feel uncomfortable. The Employment Tribunal upheld his direct discrimination claim but found that the remark did not meet the bar for harassment.
The Employment Tribunal heard that Sarah Thompson made the remark after a boozy works lunch in December 2013. She told Mr. Elworthy that if he achieved £180,000 in sales, she would give him a ‘blow job’. Another employee, Mr. Barrett, claimed that Ms Thompson said that he was excluded from this ‘benefit’ because he was married. Mr. Barrett claimed he took the remark as a joke.
The court also heard that four or five colleagues carried on drinking after the lunch. They were talking about sales targets and their effect on their bonuses. Sarah Thompson denied making the remark and said she regarded him as a friend. Mr. Elworthy said he did not complain at the time because he feared for his job.
Less favourable treatment
However, he did complain about the quip when he had a second disciplinary hearing in September 2016, after he handed in his resignation letter. The tribunal accepted that Mr. Elworthy was a high performing mortgage adviser. He was a pleasant, articulate and intelligent man.
Led by Employment Judge Elliott, the tribunal stated: “We have found above that Ms Thompson’s comment left the claimant feeling “a bit uncomfortable” and “not great”. It did not meet the bar for harassment but we find that the effect on him was nevertheless detriment. It was a highly sexualised comment and we have no hesitation in finding that the comment was made because of the claimant’s gender. We find that Ms Thompson would not have made an equivalent comment to a woman. We therefore find that the comment was less favourable treatment because of sex and the claim for direct sex discrimination succeeds.”
Mr. Elworthy’s claim came under direct sexual discrimination as defined in section 13 of the Equality Act 2010. The Employment Tribunal did not find in his favour in regard to constructive dismissal and other employment law issues.