Sex discrimination: female chef excluded from working at all-male barbecue


An employment tribunal held that a female chef was discriminated against when she was rejected for extra work at a private event on the basis of her gender. Stephen Simpson rounds up recent first-instance tribunal judgments.

Withdrawal of offer to female chef of paid extra work at all-male event
In Ndebele v A Bubble Company Ltd, an employment tribunal held that an employer committed direct sex discrimination when it rejected a female chef’s request to do paid extra work at a private event.

Ms Ndebele, an agency worker, was working as a chef for a catering company.

An office manager was asked by the head of sales to find a suitable chef to assist with a private barbecue (not connected to the employer’s activities).

The office manager put forward Ms Ndebele, who was one of the volunteers. The other volunteers were all male.

However, the head of sales overruled the office manager’s choice, saying that it was an all-male event and that a male chef would be preferable.

Sex discrimination: employment tribunal’s view

“We find that the claimant was not selected because of her sex, and that a male chef in the same position… would have been offered this benefit…

“…There was no evidence of any equal opportunities training.

“We find therefore that there was no statutory or other defence available, and the claimant was subject to an act of direct discrimination in relation to this potential benefit.”

The office manager told Ms Ndebele that she was not required.

The catering company subsequently asked the agency not to assign Ms Ndebele to it, with the reason given being that her work was slow.

Ms Ndebele brought a direct sex discrimination claim on the basis that the employer:

  • rejected her for the extra work on the basis of her gender; and
  • cancelled her future shifts.

The employment tribunal accepted that the company could be liable for sex discrimination, despite the barbecue being a private event.

The employer could be liable because the head of sales “used company staff and time to recruit this person on behalf of a friend”.

The tribunal accepted that a male chef in the same position recommended by the office manager would have been offered the benefit of the extra work.

The tribunal therefore found the catering company to be liable for direct sex discrimination in relation to the withdrawal of the offer.

However, the employment tribunal went on to hold that the cancellation of Ms Ndebele’s future shifts was not related to her sex.

The tribunal awarded £575 to Ms Ndebele.

Read more details of the case and practical tips for employers…

Other recent tribunal decisions

Older worker told she would be “better suited to a traditional estate agency”
An employment tribunal held that an estate agent administrator who resigned after she was told that she would be “better suited to a traditional estate agency” was subjected to age discrimination.

Addison Lee drivers are workers, tribunal rules
An employment tribunal ruled that a group of Addison Lee drivers were workers and therefore entitled to rights such as holiday pay and the national minimum wage.

Stephen Simpson

About Stephen Simpson

Stephen Simpson is a principal employment law editor at XpertHR. His areas of responsibility include the policies and documents and law reports. After obtaining a law degree and training to be a solicitor, he moved into publishing, initially with Butterworths. He joined XpertHR in its early days in 2001.
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