This woman was the target of sexist bullying at work. Here's how she fought back.
Imagine that you are a top architect. You worked on a celebrity restaurant in London — the Chiltern Firehouse — as well as a luxury residential development project. Then, imagine that you are patronized and discriminated against for taking maternity leave, and forced to endure rampant sexism despite your hard work and dedication to your job. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened to Julie Humphryes who, according to The Telegraph, was forced out of her job at YOO Ltd. due to sexist bullying.
Here’s the rundown: Humphryes had been working for the company for approximately eight years when she took maternity leave for her second child in July 2012. She had been working tirelessly on the aforementioned luxury residential development when this happened, and the project ended up being a huge multi-million pound deal with amazing coverage in Homes and Gardens magazine. But Humphryes didn’t get any credit, her colleague Mark Davison did. When she brought up her exclusion, the company’s CEO, Chris Boulton, claimed she was “exhibiting maternity paranoia.” NOT cool.
But that’s not all. In May 2012, Humphryes suggested during a meeting that there had been a reorganization of responsibilities which was effectively a demotion for her. In response, Boulton told her to “calm down” and from then on viewed her as, “not wholly a team player and an opponent and challenger to his authority.” Because she shared her opinion. Yeah, that makes sense.
Then, in June 2012 during a meeting, the company co-founder, John Hitchcox, also asked her if she wanted to be a “supermum,” which Humphryes found to be “patronizing and sexist,” because, um, it totally is. In the same meeting, he also told her that part of that demotion was because he, “had in mind the extensive traveling involved in the job, and the fact she had on occasion taken her first child with her on foreign trips.” Humphryes resigned in March 2013 and felt “marginalized by the company.”
Well, the case was taken in front of Central London Employment Tribunal, where Humphryes claimed discrimination because of her sex, victimization, and constructive unfair and discriminatory dismissal. However, YOO Ltd. did not back down from its stance, claiming that Humphryes was “exhibiting insecurity because she was away from the office and not in touch with what was going on.”
Luckily, the tribunal ruled that Humphryes was, indeed, forced to leave based on sexist bullying. “We accepted from Mr. Boulton that his general point was that being out of the office might be making her over-suspicious about what may be going on at work without her knowledge,” tribunal chairman Dr. Simon Auerbach said, according to The Telegraph. “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 unfavorable treatment.”
With regard to the Homes and Gardens piece, the firm accepted that she had significant involvement in the project and would have been mentioned in the piece had she not been on maternity leave. The tribunal in this instance ruled that Humphryes had, “a legitimate expectation that she should not be left out simply because she was on maternity leave.” With regards to the phrase, “calm down,” the tribunal ruled that Boulton’s “demeanour towards the claimant . . . was laced with an element of sexism.”
Humphryes will be receiving approximately 250,000 pounds in damages.
“Certainly we accept that, as is the case today still in many professions, as well as other fields, there is an issue about the opportunities for women at the top of such professions,” Dr. Auerbach said about workplace sexism. And that’s exactly what Humphryes faced.
Workplace sexism is something incredibly real, harrowing, and, unfortunately, common even today. Our thoughts are with Humphryes, who had to deal with so much cruelty solely for being a woman and a mother. But we are SO happy she fought back and got what she deserved. The wall of sexism is still high and mighty, but bit by bit, cases like these crack its foundation.
Thank you, Julie, for standing up and fighting against inequality like the strong, amazing woman that you are.
For more information on the case, check out The Telegraph‘s coverage.