hmctsA female architect has won a claim for sex discrimination against her former firm after she alleged that she had been sexist comment and edged out of her job.

Julie Humphryes was awarded more than £250,000 after she sued Yoo Limited and John Hitchcox, one of the co-founders of the firm, in the Employment Tribunal, alleging that she had been subjected to sex discrimination as well as pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

Ms Humphryes joined Yoo Limited in 2004 after working with one of the co-founders of the company on the Sanderson Hotel. She claimed in evidence at the Central London Employment Tribunal that she had no initial concerns about her treatment but that she did become worried in 2006 after the arrival of a new chief executive officer, Chris Boulton. Ms Humphryes stated that she felt that the senior managers at the firm, including Mr Boulton, saw senior female employees and consultants as “pretty faces” rather than senior designers, and that their attitude towards female staff became “apparent” after she stood up for herself.

In evidence at the Employment Tribunal Ms Humphryes, who earned £105,000 per annum whilst working at the firm, stated that she believed that she was marginalised after her second pregnancy in 2011 and that her absence from the business had allowed the company to diminish her role. She alleged that when she complained about being left out out of a review of work undertaken on a multi-million pound residential complex that she was told by Mr Boulton that she was “exhibiting maternity paranoia”. She also gave evidence that Mr Hitchcox had questioned whether she wanted to be a “supermum” – a remark that Ms Humphryes found “patronising and sexist” and that, on return to the business from maternity leave in May 2012, the company had attempted to demote her and would not allow her to return to her previous role.

Ms Humphryes subsequently resigned from the company in May 2013 and made Employment Tribunal claims for constructive unfair dismissal, wrongful dismissal, sex discrimination, and pregnancy and maternity discrimination and was successful with these in June 2015. Ms Humphryes was awarded the sum of £246,138.55 as compensation by the Employment Tribunal, which included £20,000 for injury to feelings, £72,533.40 for future loss of earnings, and £176,533.87 for past loss of earnings, as well as other losses.

Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “Employers must ensure that, upon return from maternity leave, female workers are not marginalised and, equally, do not perceive themselves as being marginalised. An employer’s failure to take proper and reasonable steps could potentially lead to a time-consuming, expensive and stressful Employment Tribunal claim.”

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