EAT ruling firms cannot afford to ignore

Louise Barton hopes her decision to fight back against the secretive pay
policies of her City employer will prove a landmark case in women’s battle for
equal pay.

Employment lawyers agree the Employment Appeal Tribunal’s decision that
Barton’s claim for sexual discrimination against Investec Henderson Crosthwaite
should be heard at employment tribunal a second time, will have very
significant implications.

It effectively means employers will have to prove they did not discriminate,
whereas in the past, the burden of proof was on the individual bringing a
claim.

Barton, 52, was obviously pleased with the ruling earlier this month, but
said that fighting her employer for fair pay had been an extremely expensive
and stressful. However, she is determined to see it through to the end.

Barton believes it was only because she was an older woman with an excellent
track record as a media analyst that she felt able to confront her employer.

"I know there are a lot of injustices at lower levels. A lot of women
swallow their pride and get on with it. But I’m older and bolshier, and I was
determined to take them on head on," she said.

Barton was spurred into making the discrimination claim in March 2001 after
discovering that two of her male colleagues were paid bonuses of £1m and
£600,000 respectively, compared with her £300,000 bonus – even though she had
brought in more revenue than they had.

Barton thinks one reason why the original tribunal dismissed her claim was
because of the sums involved. "I think there was a feeling of ‘you are
already earning a lot of money, why are you making this claim?’ But they chose
to ignore some basic facts."

Barton, who ranked number one in her field in a Reuters poll two years ago,
said employers would not get into difficulties if bonuses were decided on open
and objective criteria.

She believes women are not as good as men at playing the political games
needed to get noticed.

"I think women are more likely to just get on with their jobs while men
are generally better at blowing their own trumpets. A male colleague would say:
‘I’ve pulled off this or that big deal, I’m going to lunch with so and so’. He
would be doing this all the time. I think it is childish playing these games,
but I think they have an impact," she said.

She advised women to become more aware of office politics and to be prepared
to jump ship if they feel they are not valued.

However, Barton is an unlikely equal rights champion. She is opposed to
mandatory equal pay audits and has no sympathy for women who can’t cope with
the macho culture of the City.

"The trading floor is the most aggressive environment. Men are dreadful
to each other as well as to women – aggression is the oxygen that drives
results. If you can’t take it, go into corporate finance or research," she
said.

Barton believes her case and the new equal pay questionnaires (introduced as
part of the Employment Act on 6 April) will eventually hammer the message home
that employers cannot afford to pay staff unfairly.

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