Tribunal win | Female B&B worker told by boss he can't change bed sheets as 'it's a woman's job'

Female B&B worker told by boss he can't change bed sheets as 'it's a woman's job'

An employee at a bed & breakfast in the Lake District has won a sex discrimination case after she was told by her boss that stripping beds “is a woman’s job”.

The court heard that Nicola Nolan, an employee at Appletrees guest house in Keswick, had once had a good working relationship with the owner of the B&B, Catherine Fairfield.

However, Nolan, who works as an assistant with duties of serving breakfast and cleaning rooms, was asked to change the bed sheets of her boss and her husband, Jason Fairfield, who also acted as her manager.

According to the ruling, when Nolan agreed to change the bed sheets of the business’ owners, she said to Jason Fairfield that he should strip the bed instead of her, having slept in it himself. In response, Fairfield allegedly told Nolan: “It’s not my job to do it, it is a woman’s job.”

The tribunal revealed that the claimant changing the managing couple's personal bed was not a part of her daily duties, however she agreed to do it because of her female boss’ health issues.

Despite complaining to Catherine Fairfield about the altercation, no action was taken to address the grievance, which eventually led to Nolan walking out of the establishment and her managers terminating her contract.

A court decided that Nolan was the victim of sex discrimination and unfair dismissal.

Casual sexism in the workplace

Casual sexism disguised as ‘banter’ too often occurs in the workplace. If an employee reports a case of discrimination to their employer and it goes unaddressed, this can have some concerning consequences for the culture and safety of a workforce – not to mention a potentially costly tribunal.

Therefore, employers should aim to address all complaints related to inappropriate sexist language, fast and effectively.

Katy Sawyer, Chief People Officer at Onebright, says that a key aspect to addressing casual sexism is to foster an environment where even male colleagues feel comfortable to call out discrimination. She says: “Experiences of stereotypes, bias, and outright discrimination are sadly still all too frequent. What is encouraging to see is how more and more of our male colleagues are leading the charge in calling out discrimination and challenging each other when they see casual or explicit sexism in the workplace.”

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