A female BP employee claimed her female employer told her “women simply aren’t funny” and then later sacked her for her sense of humour. The employee is launching legal action against BP, claiming unfair dismissal, sexual discrimination and public interest disclosure.
Kathryn Buttle, was a surveyor and earnt £87,000 a year before she was made redundant by ‘one of the world’s leading integrated oil and gas companies’. The 38-year-old claimed the reason for her redundancy was due to her being ‘funny’.
Kathryn Buttle was the only female surveyor in her team and she felt as if the rest of her male colleagues left her unable to perform her job role properly as there was a culture of bullying in her workplace. She then went to raise the issue with her boss, Herlinde Mannaerts-Drew, who told her that her personality would be a greater asset if she was a male. She advised her to read the room she works in and that “humour is a great tool to have in the toolbox, but only if you are a man”. Mannaerts-Drew also told her that Buttle “was a great talent, one of the most competent surveyors they had and that [she] had a really good personality that just needed a little ‘tweaking’”.
Buttle had told the tribunal that in 2013, she was working on a project at a company office in Surrey. The project was managed and supervised under Subsea Execution Manager, Stephen Moore. Kathryn Buttle claims the atmosphere became toxic and believes the negative feelings Moore had against her and her position at the company contributed a lot to the redundancy scores that was initiated in 2016 as part of the redundancy process.
Mannaerts-Drew was shocked to hear Buttle was accusing her of sexual discrimination as the personal conversation she had with her was meant to help and support Buttle. She also responded with “I would never say that you need to be a man in order to succeed at BP, because that goes against every I stand for and my values”.
The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful for an employee to be discriminated against by their employer because of their sex. Sexual discrimination against men is just as unlawful as sexual discrimination against women. It is also unlawful for a man to discriminate against another man because of his sex and this applies to a woman discriminating against another woman because of her sex as well.
This takes place when an individual is treated differently to someone of the opposite sex and who is in a similar situation. This relates to Kathryn Battle, as she is being told “her personality would be a greater asset if she was a male”. She is basically being told she can’t be herself at work however, if she was a male then it would be acceptable.
If you need advice or have any questions regarding sexual discrimination or this blog post, please contact a member of the HPC team…
T: 0844 800 5932