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‘Ballbreaking’ lawyer wins £150,000 after being sacked for complaining about gender pay gap

Lawyer Helena Biggs, 47, has won over £150,000 in a gender discrimination case after successfully suing an international shipping insurance company

A ‘revolutionary’ female lawyer who was sacked after complaining she was paid less than her male colleagues has won over £150,000 in a sexism case.

Lawyer Helena Biggs, a 47-year-old mother of two, successfully sued an international shipping insurance company, A Bilborough and Company, for sex discrimination in 2020.

Now she has received £151,811 in compensation.

She claims she overheard director Ian Barr tell a colleague to ‘keep your legs closed’ on learning Ms Biggs was pregnant and remarked to another that she ‘looked like a dyke’.

She claimed to have witnessed repeated sexist behavior by male bosses at the company she joined in 2003.

The lawyer was reportedly warned she risked scoring an ‘own goal’ when she asked why her salary was not the same as that of a male executive with whom she shared an office.

The University of Bristol graduate – who has been criticized for being ‘arrogant’, ‘over-ambitious’ and ‘ball-breaking’ – claimed to have suffered a ‘campaign of victimisation’ which resulted in her dismissal at the following his complaint.

And she said the company’s use of her as an ‘enforcer’ to prey on underperforming staff has led to her being seen in the office as the ‘Wicked Witch of the West’ .

As part of her case, Ms Biggs alleged that she witnessed repeated sexist behavior by male bosses at the company she joined in 2003.

Mr Barr also tried to downplay an incident when Ms Biggs complained about being groped by a lawyer representing one of the firm’s clients during a lunch break, she claimed.

Meanwhile, her direct manager Steve Roberts – who described her as ‘too dominant’ and ‘incredibly ambitious’ – advised her to ‘use her charms’ to win him over.

The court heard the skilled solicitor, from Redhill, Surrey, was promoted to associate director at the firm – where she worked as a claims officer – in 2010.

In 2013, she accidentally discovered that a male colleague of similar rank was being paid £2,000 a year more than her, a revelation she found “particularly upsetting” but decided to keep quiet.

In 2015, she raised the issue with Mr. Roberts.

“Mr. Roberts responded by telling her she needed to be careful and that the issue could be ‘dangerous,'” the court heard.

A 47-year-old mother of two lawyers, Helena Biggs, successfully sued an international marine insurance company, A Bilborough and Company, for sex discrimination in 2020

A 47-year-old mother of two lawyers, Helena Biggs, successfully sued an international marine insurance company, A Bilborough and Company, for sex discrimination in 2020

He told the hearing that pursuing the issue could be a ‘personal goal’ for Ms Biggs and that she was better off leaving her alone.

However, she persisted and in October the company agreed to give her a pay rise, although she did not backdate the award to 2010 because, Mr Roberts said, she had paid for it. she is taking a management course.

Over the next two years, Ms Biggs claimed she had been ‘victimized and targeted’, the court heard, unfairly criticized, overburdened and lost promotion and training opportunities.

She filed a grievance, accusing Mr Roberts of abusing his power and ‘engaging in intimidating or demeaning behaviour’.

She also claimed he acted improperly in connection with a million dollar insurance claim involving a shipment of rice.

The majority of her complaints were dismissed by the company and there was a discussion about whether Ms Biggs – who had been declared ill – should return to work.

However, Mr Barr conducted a staff survey which he said indicated she would not be welcome in the office.

The East London tribunal found that Ms Biggs had been unfairly dismissed and had been subjected to gender discrimination, victimization and harassment

The East London tribunal found that Ms Biggs had been unfairly dismissed and had been subjected to gender discrimination, victimization and harassment

After concluding that her relationship with directors and other staff had broken down, the company fired her in January 2018.

However, the East London tribunal found that Ms Biggs had been unfairly dismissed and had suffered gender discrimination, victimization and harassment.

Regarding his ‘keep your legs closed’ and ‘dyke’ remarks, the court slammed Mr Barr for his ‘disparaging comments’ which ‘stereotyped’ women.

He said Mr Roberts had been ‘sexist’ and ‘clumsy’ in describing Ms Biggs as ‘arrogant’ and suggesting she was ‘using her charms’ on him.

“This is a comment often made to women in the media and in society,” the judgment concluded. “It’s very unusual to see a reference to a grown man using his charms.”

The court found that at the end of 2017, the firm wanted her to leave “because she had challenged their authority and caused them difficulty”.

Difficulties included his unequal pay complaint and his allegations about the $1 million insurance payout, according to the judgment.

These are the real reasons for his dismissal, not his relationship with managers and staff, he said.