Women are just as valuable as Men

When Julie Humphryes was edged out of her £105,000 architect job at Yoo after the birth of her second child she decided that she needed to challenge the company she had been loyal to for eight years.

Ms Humphryes, 44, was awarded £406,000 by the Central London Employment Tribunal after they agreed that she had been ‘wrongfully and unfairly dismissed’ from the role and business that she loved and had built a stellar reputation and career with, and that Yoo had been guilty of sex discrimination

Despite being one of the most senior individuals in the business, and running the hub of Yoo’s business – the Yoo Design Studio, Ms Humphryes started to notice changes in the way that the business perceived her and she started to notice that she was being passed over for some high value projects that she would naturally have worked on.

Other senior managers at Yoo (founded and owed by millionaire property developer John Hitchcox and renowned French designer Philippe Starck) seemed to be dismissive of her commitment to the firm and her role within it – she was described as little more than an ‘interior decorator’; she was left off a review of work on a multi-million pound luxury residential development in the Cotswolds; at one point Hitchcox asked her if she wanted to be a ‘supermum’; she was greeted with aggression and unwarranted allegations of misconduct by Chris Boulton (the CEO); the whole saga ended through a series of increasingly unpleasant meetings, where it was made clear to Ms Humphryes that Yoo had no intention of allowing her to return to her rightful role in the business.

She resigned in May 2013.

Humphryes notes that she ‘became aware that senior men in the company held the view that a woman’s contribution was not as valuable as a man’s.’, and in fact when she complained to the CEO Chris Boulton she was told in a patronising way to “calm down”, and thought that she was ‘exhibiting maternity paranoia’.

Expert View

Michael Lewins Head of Employment, Ian Abel commented “Maternity leave discrimination, is more common that many of us think, and victims do often feel discriminated against during this time, but like Ms Humphryes they often told or feel that they are just being paranoid. Employees on maternity leave a legitimate expectation that she should not be left out simply because they are taking their legal right to maternity leave, and during this period of their life they should not be left feeling undervalued by the companies that they still work for. It should be stated that the level of damages awarded in this case is far above the usual award for maternity discrimination. As Ms Humphryes brought cases of both constructive dismissal together with discrimination, due to the discriminatory angle this removes the usual statutory cap of one year’s net losses. I would expect that Ms Humphyres was successful in proving to the Tribunal that it would take her approximately 4 years to return to the level of salary she was previously at prior to the discrimination, and that the vast majority of the damages awarded were for loss of earnings as opposed to compensation for injury to feelings (paid for the discrimination alone).”

More information can be found on our Unfair Dismissal page.

If you need any help of advice for your potential harassment claim then either call us now on 0844 499 9302 or email employ@michaellewin.co.uk to make a claim, or alternatively, click here to make a claim.

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