Employment Tribunal decides – telling a woman she “has balls” is not sexist


12 May 2020

By Alexandra Dean

Recently, the Employment Tribunal at London Central determined that the Claimant, Rachel Power, was not discriminated against or victimised by the CEO of Secure Code Warrior Ltd of Northampton despite telling her that she "has balls".

In 2018, Ms Power worked as a contractor for Northampton based start-up, Secure Code Warrior on a three months' fix-term contract basis.

Over time, her relationship with the CEO, Pieter Danhieux appears to have gone downhill and in her Tribunal claim, Ms Power accused the business in general and Mr Danhieux in particular of discriminating against her on the basis of her gender and that she was victimised and harassed as a result of raising her concerns in 34 separate allegations.

Some of the examples provided by Ms Power as part of her Tribunal preparations include the alleged exclusion of Ms Power from important meetings and receiving inaccurate, negative feedback on work that she had undertaken. Ms Power had also claimed that Mr Danhieux in particular discriminated against her by stating that she "has balls" when referring to the fact that she had supposedly been trying to remove him from his position as CEO.

Ms Power alleged that the statement was sexually offensive and that she cannot possibly have the 'strength of character' to take such action and therefore must be masculine.

For the Company's defence, Mr Danhieux gave evidence that his statement was meant to express 'surprise and annoyance' and the fact that Ms Power had 'front' in suggesting that he ought to be removed from his role as CEO.

The Tribunal had dismissed all of Ms Power's claims explaining, amongst other reasons, that whilst the negative feedback to Ms Power may have been unwanted, "it was not related to sex" as it was appropriate for Mr Danhieux to raise such feedback with Ms Power. With particular reference to the "balls" comment, the Tribunal concluded that "This has nothing to do with sex, or the Claimant's sex, and everything to do with her behaviour…

There are many cases where comments may be taken out of context by employees or indeed where the discriminatory comments made in the office are disguised as 'office banter'

There is little doubt that neither is acceptable and we are here to support both employers and employees when such issues arise.

If you are concerned about anything that may have the potential of developing to any claim for discrimination or harassment on any grounds then please do not hesitate to contact our expert team to discuss the matter and we will be happy to assist.