HomeForeign JurisdictionCalling a Woman ‘Pretty’ at Work is Sex Discrimination, Judge Rules

Calling a Woman ‘Pretty’ at Work is Sex Discrimination, Judge Rules


Calling a female colleague a “pretty woman” at work is sex discrimination, a tribunal has ruled.

The ruling came in the case of an accounts manager who sued her employers after her boss told her to attend a meeting – because a male client liked “pretty women”.

Emma Nunn was left feeling “humiliated and undermined” when Adam Crouch extended the invitation purely for her physical appearance, the employment tribunal heard.

He then demeaned her further by telling her to calm down when she refused, before signing off his message with “babes”, it concluded.

Miss Nunn resigned from her £60,000 a year job and is now in line to receive compensation after winning her claim of sex discrimination with the judge ruling the comments were “reducing her value to the business” and would not have been made to a male colleague.

‘Blurred working relationship’

The Leicester tribunal heard Mr Crouch took over trucking firm G & MJ Crouch & Son, in the city, from his father in 2015, but Miss Nunn had known him as a longstanding family friend since she was 18.

Miss Nunn told the panel their particular friendship led to a “blurring of the nature of their working relationship”.

“Mr Crouch did not speak, consult with, or treat any other female employee like he spoke to and treated me,” she said.

“The 20-year friendship came with significant consequences – I tolerated his behaviour as best I could.

“He was not speaking to me like a boss, more like a husband disappointed in a wife (me).

“At one level I was a trusted confidante, someone to let off steam to, to disclose innermost secrets and feelings to and next I was a normal employee.”

‘Is that all I get recognised for?’

However, the tribunal found this dynamic of not being “a purely professional working relationship”, was actually “encouraged” by both of them.

In April 2021, Mr Crouch – who is married – sent her a message about an upcoming meeting saying: “Oh yeah you should come as [a customer] is attending – he likes pretty women.”

In a subsequent email to Mr Crouch complaining about her treatment, she asked: “Is that all I get recognised for, that I am attractive?”

She resigned later that month, saying she felt “humiliated and undermined” and took the firm to the tribunal, making a series of claims of sex discrimination and harassment.

While most were dismissed, the “pretty woman” complaint was upheld.

Reference to pretty is sexual in nature’

Employment Judge Rachel Broughton said: “[We] find that the ‘pretty face’ comment would not have been said to a man, or an equivalent comment made about a male colleague’s physical attractiveness as a reason for being invited to a work meeting.

“It should have been obvious to him that such a comment would be unwelcome.

“It was not flattering [Miss Nunn], it was reducing her value to the business in that context, and what she would contribute to the meeting.

“The tribunal concludes that the reference to ‘pretty’ is sexual in nature.  It is about her physical attractiveness and in this context, her physical attractiveness to the opposite sex, a customer.

“The implication is that [the customer] finds her sexually attractive and would for that reason get some pleasure at looking at her in the meeting and/or interacting with her.

“The comment was sexual in nature and was said because of her sex, that she is a woman.”

A further hearing to award compensation will take place at a later date.


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