Female manager wins sex discrimination case against Sheffield firm

Female executive wins discrimination case after boss dismissed her pay complaint because her husband who was director at the firm was on £270,000 a year

  • Jiang Ping, 69, was earning £36,000-a-year part time when she complained
  • He sued Sheffield-based James Durrans & Sons for sex discrimination  

A senior female executive has won a discrimination case after she complained about her pay and her boss said her director husband’s salary meant their household income was ‘more than enough’.

A tribunal heard that Jiang Ping’s boss at the £35 million British firm thought ‘a married woman cannot challenge her salary if her husband is a high earner’.

Ms Ping’s husband, David Armitage, was a director at the company earning up to £270,000, while she was a senior manager who went part-time and was earning £36,000 when she complained.

The 69 year old has now successfully sued Sheffield-based international supplier James Durrans & Sons Ltd for sex discrimination.

An Employment Tribunal judge slammed managing director Chris Durrans, 62, for making the ‘inherently discriminatory’ comment that he was ‘comfortable’ with Ms Ping’s household income.

Jiang Ping sued Sheffield-basted James Durrans and Sons for sex discrimination after management decided she was being paid enough based on her husband’s income. Ms Ping was recruited to the firm in 1998 and had previously earned £65,448 with a £30,000 bonus. This was reduced when she went part time – though she complained she was still expected to do the same amount of work

Mr Durrans’ 55 year old brother Nicholas Durrans – also a director at the company – had then agreed with his brother and rejected her grievance, the panel heard.

The tribunal in London heard Ms Ping, who is Chinese, was recruited to James Durrans & Sons in 1998 and worked as a senior manager, overseeing important business in China.

Before going part-time, Ms Ping received a salary of £65,448 and a bonus of £30,000.

Her husband Mr Armitage, 58, was operations director at the company and managing director of its Chinese subsidiary, earning lucrative salaries and bonuses.

Ms Ping went part-time in 2016 and later became unhappy that her workload was not cut significantly to match her reduced hours.

In May 2021 she raised the issue.

A tribunal report said: ‘[She] asked Mr Armitage to raise the level of her salary with Mr C Durrans.

‘Mr Armitage was uncomfortable about doing so, but did as she asked.

‘Mr Durrans’ response was that he was comfortable with the level of their combined household income.

‘Mr Armitage said to him that he needed to talk to [Ms Ping] about the level of her salary.

‘Ms Ping sent Mr C Durrans an email about her pay. She began by saying… Mr Armitage had raised with him the inadequacy of her remuneration for the work that she did for [the company].

‘She said that her remuneration should reflect her value and significant contribution, particularly in so far as it related to the success of [the Chinese subsidiary].

‘She said that that was irrespective of the fact that her husband also worked for the company.

‘The work that she did and her remuneration had never correlated but since 2016 the gap had become ‘so unreasonably acute’ that she had felt compelled to raise it with him.

‘She said that Mr Durrans’ comment about household income had been discriminatory.’

Mr Durrans had said their ‘combined household is more than enough’, it was heard.

Nicholas Durrans rejected her grievance, telling her ‘he did not understand why she said that the comment about the combined household income was sexist’.

Ms Ping was left ‘upset’ and ‘angry’, the tribunal heard.

Now, Employment Judge Harjit Grewal has ruled the comment about household salary amounted to sex discrimination.

Judge Grewal said: ‘We concluded she was subjected to a detriment because her complaint about her level of pay was not considered on its merits.

‘It is clear from the reason given for not dealing with it that Mr Durrans’ view was that a married woman cannot challenge her level of earnings if her husband is a high earner.

‘That is a view that is inherently discriminatory against women.

‘Mr Durrans has always denied responding in that way.

‘In the absence of any explanation from Mr Durrans for not considering her complaint about her level of pay at that stage and the inherently discriminatory nature of the comment he made, we concluded that in not considering her complaint he treated her less favourably on the grounds of sex.

‘Ms Ping’s evidence was that she had been very upset and angry Mr Durrans had used that as an excuse to avoid paying her that to which she was entitled.’

It was heard Ms Ping’s complaints about her pay were later considered, however the tribunal ordered James Durrans & Sons to pay her £4,000.

Ms Ping brought other claims of race, sex and marital status discrimination as well as harassment, but they were all dismissed.

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