UK finance executive wins discrimination case over ‘menopause’ jibe
Debbie Thomas upset CEO Shiraz Jessa by warning about the company’s issues
A senior executive at a financial technology firm has emerged victorious in a discrimination claim against her boss who allegedly attributed her concerns about the company’s finances to the menopause.
Debbie Thomas, chief financial officer and director at London’s Bibimoney since 2016, upset CEO Shiraz Jessa by warning about the company’s issues and suggested buying it.
The strained relationship led to Jessa attributing Thomas’s, 53, behaviour to menopause, causing her to resign and sue for age and sex discrimination. The tribunal awarded her £5,500, stating the menopause comment violated her dignity and created a hostile environment.
It also highlighted the discriminatory nature of the comment and its impact on Thomas’s professional standing.
According to reports, the issues started when Thomas raised funding concerns at a meeting with Jessa, who was the majority shareholder. During the meeting, she proposed that she and her partner, Martin Hine, buy the company to address the financial challenges it faced.
Following the proposal, Thomas emailed Jessa to reiterate her suggestion and later sent the same email to Jessa’s cousin and father, also shareholders in the company.
The tribunal emphasised that Thomas had expressed apprehensions about the company’s solvency without additional funding, a situation that could impact her standing as a chartered accountant.
Despite her efforts to address the financial concerns, Thomas faced detriments, including the alleged menopause-related comment.
In response to the tribunal’s ruling, Thomas spoke about the impact of the incident on her professional career. She noted that, inspired by the MeToo movement, she decided to pursue legal action, stating that such comments could no longer be tolerated.
Thomas highlighted the hurtful nature of the comment, emphasising its diminishing effect on her entire professional trajectory.
Despite Jessa’s denial of making the menopause-related comment, the tribunal found in favour of Thomas, asserting that the comment contributed to an intimidating and degrading work environment.
Thomas, who represented herself during the proceedings, expressed her satisfaction with the outcome and emphasised the significance of holding individuals accountable for inappropriate comments in the workplace.
Employment Judge Kevin Singh said: “It was clear that a hypothetical male or younger female comparator would not have had such a comment made to them due to the very nature of the comment.”
“These kinds of comments, people cannot get away with. You just can’t say those things any more. I have got two daughters. My 17-year-old heard the comment and she was more outraged than I was,” Thomas was quoted as saying.