A Bantersaurus Rex in full swing.

A female lawyer who succeeded in claims of sex discrimination, victimisation and unfair dismissal against her former employer, has been awarded over £150,000 by an employment tribunal.

Shipping solicitor Helena Biggs worked at A Bilbrough & Co, a maritime insurance management company, from 2004 to 2018, rising to the position of associate director. Prior to that, she was a solicitor at Barlow Lyde & Gilbert (pre-merger with Clyde & Co) and trained at Ince.

Biggs brought various claims against A Bilbrough and three of its directors. At employment tribunal hearings in 2019 and 2020, she claimed that she was unfairly dismissed following a "campaign of victimisation" after she had raised concerns regarding unequal pay.

One director, Steve Roberts, had referred to Biggs as "overly dominant" and "incredibly ambitious". The tribunal said these were "negative" statements about Biggs' work ethic and drive, and "would not have been made about a man who wanted to progress within the business and worked hard to achieve that".

The tribunal also found that Roberts used "sexist language" when he described Biggs as "pushy".

Biggs voiced a concern that her colleagues would see her as the "Wicked Witch of the West" because she was the person who was expected to deal with underperformance. In Roberts' evidence, he said that a male colleague described Biggs as a "ballbreaker", which, the tribunal noted, was accepted as fact, "even though that person had originally described her as supportive".

The tribunal found that Biggs "was a conscientious manager who gave feedback" and "assisted" junior and new staff.  And "there had been no formal complaints and no grievances raised" against Biggs "in relation to her management style and no allegations of bullying had been raised by the staff". 

In another instance, Roberts asked Biggs to "use her charms" to persuade him to do some work, which the tribunal said "was clumsy and could be a reference to her gender since this is a comment often made to females in the media and in society".

When allocating cases, Roberts said he would not give a particular fleet to Biggs because the operators of the fleet held sexist views, and he could not "force them" to work with a woman.

Comments by another company director, Ian Barr, also came under the spotlight at the hearings. When Biggs was going on maternity leave, Barr told another female employee to "keep her legs shut", and on another occasion described a female member of staff as looking "like a dyke".

The tribunal criticised Barr for his "derogatory" comments, saying that it was likely that the women he addressed "may have felt unable to challenge him." The tribunal added that such "banter" can be offensive as "not all women want to or can get pregnant and it is stereotypical to assume so."

On another occasion, a female client invited Biggs for drinks, and Barr allegedly suggested that this might be because the client was a lesbian. Barr argued that he said this to "protect" Biggs, but the tribunal noted that it was "not clear how making this comment would protect her."

Biggs told the tribunal that during a work lunch, she had been groped by a partner of a firm who had a close relationship with one of A Bilbrough's clients. The following day, Biggs reported the incident to Barr. But he was unsympathetic about it, she claimed, and tried to make it into a joke.

Biggs discovered that she was paid less than a similarly ranked male colleague, over a period of five years, and discussed the wage difference with Roberts. But he warned her to be careful, saying it could be "dangerous" if she was to raise the issue with management.

Biggs persisted, and A Bilbrough eventually agreed to grant her a pay rise. But it did not backdate the payments for the full period, stating that this was because the business had provided financial support for Biggs' MBA. However, the tribunal noted that A Bilbrough had not previously suggested to Biggs that funding the course would be linked to her salary.

Roberts gave Biggs a list of objectives that "amounted to an excessive and impossible workload", found the tribunal, and he "put them together because of her gender and to create an oppressive environment for her".

Biggs brought an internal grievance for various issues, including that she had been victimised because of her complaint of unequal pay. She also accused Roberts of abusing his power as her manager, and "exhibiting intimidating or demeaning behaviour". 

In the grievance outcome, Barr upheld parts of the complaint, but did not agree that that there had been discrimination, or that Roberts had misused his power.

A Bilbrough later terminated Biggs' employment, citing personality clashes due to "irreconcilable differences" between Biggs and Roberts.

The tribunal ruled that Biggs had been unfairly dismissed, finding that A Bilbrough had wanted to get rid of her when she "challenged their authority" and "caused them difficulties" with her grievances including her complaint of unequal pay.

In a remedy judgment, the employment tribunal has now ordered that A Bilbrough pay Biggs a total sum of £151,811, which included £53,840 for injury to feelings and £28,581 for past lost wages.

When the initial judgment came out, a source told RollOnFriday: "The behaviour which the judge in this case has recognised as being unlawful is common in shipping law firms and until now male bosses have enjoyed a large degree of impunity."

Biggs said: “The size of this award reflects the very poor corporate behaviour in this case. While it was partly about sex discrimination, the Tribunal said that the primary reason for my dismissal was because I shone a light on suspected wrongdoing by Directors at the company."

She added: "Like me, many whistleblowers lose their jobs for doing the right thing, and that was why I wanted to bring this case – to highlight that injustice and to set the record straight.”

A statement by A Bilbrough said: "We were naturally disappointed by the outcome of the Tribunal which we feel does not accurately reflect the high standards of the company. Nevertheless, we fully recognise the importance of ensuring that any instance of behaviour that is not fitting with our expectations is addressed proactively and robustly."

The statement continued: "We have therefore taken substantive steps to identify and address any drivers of inappropriate behaviour. This includes engaging independent third-party experts to thoroughly review our corporate culture and deliver a range of additional leadership, diversity & inclusion and related training to all members of staff. We are confident that, through this process, we have put necessary measures in place to ensure a safe and inclusive working environment for all."

Tip Off ROF


Anonymous 19 August 22 08:51

I don't think its that common in shipping firms, never seen anything else like this at tribunal.


Same Old Shipping 19 August 22 09:13

Standard for shipping firms. Imagine the partners are all members of the Presidents Club and they have Roy Chubby Brown lined up to compere the Christmas do.

Anomymous 19 August 22 10:47

Seems standard to the shipping industry - have close personal experience of even more awful behavjour by one firm.   Archaic industry in need of a clean-up - some appalling practices going on.

Question Man 19 August 22 11:26

@09:08 - Hey! You!

Stop that immediately. I'm the authentic real Question Man and I'll be the one compulsively asking inane questions in an effort to undermine and cast doubt on allegations sexual harassment around here, thank you very much.

Now, let's being: Is anyone sure that this 'Steve Roberts' character really existed? Did the tribunal consider the possibility that he was some sort of automaton created by Biggs and then infiltrated into the business to perform a series of pre-programmed routines in which he made allegedly sexist remarks which she could then later rely on in evidence in an effort to extort her employer for money?

Lord Lester 19 August 22 11:40

Anonymous 19 August 22 09:06: "peerages" is plural for "peerage". It is not a reference to peering at people. The peerage is a system of honours. Members of the peerage are peers. In England, there are various ranks of the peerage. I was a life peer, thus holding the rank of Baron. Life peers and certain hereditary peers have seats in the House of Lords. You will find this wikipedia page of interest:

No Answer Woman 19 August 22 12:36

@11.26 - we need to ask questions due to the high incidence of false allegations. There is a tendency from some to try to shut down questions due to the number of allegations which fall apart when questions are asked. 9.08's question was reasonable - tellingly there has been no answer. The allegations in this case were of sex discrimination, not sexual harassment.

Now, what three questions should you be asking?

Question Man 19 August 22 13:10

@12.36 - what evidence do you have that there has been no answer to 09.08?


Do you have proof that I have not already asked three questions?


If an incel engages in self-abuse alone in a bedsit apartment decorated with Linkin Park posters where there is nobody around to observe him, does he really engage in self-abuse at all?

Lord Lester 19 August 22 13:20

Anonymous 19 August 22 12:29: I don’t want to peer at them, whether for ages or for any time. I want to arrange for them to have peerages. 

Anon 19 August 22 13:22

No Answer Woman 19 August 22 12:36: please provide evidence of the alleged high incidence of false allegations, with reference to specific cases where allegations have found to be false.

Anonymous 19 August 22 13:25

Anonymous 19 August 22 12:29 - he doesn’t want to peer at them, you total lunatic. It is a reference to the peerage. Are you stupid or simply arguing in bad faith?

Anonymous 19 August 22 13:51

Of all the P&I Clubs in London, the London Club has long had the worst reputation for this sort of thing. Good for her. 

Anonymous 19 August 22 14:15

@13.20 - but why do you want to peer at them for ages while basking in the warm glow of personal satisfaction that can only come from having your good reputation vindicated and returned to its formerly unblemished state by way of being cleared of all wrongdoing by the BSB.

Anonymous 19 August 22 14:22

@13.25 - yes, he does want to peer at them for ages you lunatic, he said so again at 13.20. Sounds like the one who is either stupid or acting in bad faith is you!

Anonymous 19 August 22 14:39

@13.10 - agreed, evidence and questions are important. You're learning.

The evidence of no answer to @9.08's question is the lack of answers.

You weren't told to ask three questions, you were asked what three questions you should have asked. You haven't answered.

Yes, 'incel' is an abusive term. A lot more so than 'dominant', 'determined' or 'pushy'. 

Lord Lester 19 August 22 15:35

It looks as though we are agreed that I don't want to peer at anyone. And I wasn't cleared by the BSB, unfortunately.

Anon 19 August 22 16:18

Question Man madder than ever in this commentary. I can see him at home, sitting in a bath of baked beans, face painted blue, typing away. 

Anonymous 19 August 22 16:51

@16.18 - what evidence do you have that I am certifiably insane and should almost certainly be banned from coming within fifty feet of childrens' playgrounds?



Can you post a link to prove that I am not already?

Anonymous 19 August 22 16:56

"Hardly sexist to call someone 'overly dominant'"

I think that if I ever heard someone describe a woman in that way - especially someone that they principally knew in a professional capacity - then I'd probably have to politely, but firmly, ask them if they could subtly arrange for the two of us to go out for drinks together.

Anonymous 19 August 22 17:22

@15.35 - if you don't want to peer at anyone then why do you keep saying you want to peer at people for ages?

You might not have been, but Lord Lester was.

Lord Lester 19 August 22 20:02

Anonymous 19 August 22 17:22: I’ve expressly disavowed any notion that I want to peer at people, whether for ages or at all. Unfortunately, I wasn’t cleared by the BSB.

Anon 20 August 22 07:17

It is very telling that Question Man has failed to give   evidence of the alleged high incidence of false allegations, with reference to specific cases where allegations have found to be false, as invited to by Anon 19 August 22 13:22.

Anonymous 20 August 22 09:57

@19th @ 20.02 - no, you said you wanted to arrange to peer at them for ages.

Sorry you weren't cleared, but Lord Lester was.

Anonymous 20 August 22 10:41

@19th @ 13.22 - sure, just browse through past news articles and read the comments.

Anonymous 20 August 22 12:32

@ Same Old Shipping - they'd be doing well to be members of the President's Club seeing that it hasn't existed for four years.

Anon 20 August 22 12:36

Question Man is a common or garden narcissist of the sort which frequent online commentaries. There is a lot of learning on this. His comments like “why do you want to peer at them”, and persisting with that question even when it has been explained that the post concerns the peerage (which he knows full well anyway) whilst silly, is also (more seriously) indicative of a disturbed mindset. Asking bad faith questions, and ignoring what others are saying, are textbook indicators of narcissism. 

Ex soggy 20 August 22 18:49

Worked at a shipping law firm for years. Lots of talented male and female associates. Very few female partners.

If P&I clubs want to show they are not sexist then as well as getting their own houses in order they need to be asking tough questions of the shipping law firms they use.

P&I clubs are in a position to influence these firms and many major corporate clients ask diversity questions about their potential firms at pitch time, so why not? 

Anonymous 21 August 22 09:02

@19th @ 16.51 - why are you asking for evidence that you are certifiably insane and should almost certainly be banned from coming within fifty feet of childrens' playgrounds?

A link to prove that you are not what already?

Dave 21 August 22 09:06

@19th @ 16.54 - her saying that asking questions to ascertain whether allegations are true is 'compulsively asking inane questions in an effort to undermine and cast doubt on allegations sexual harassment around here' is clearly wrong and not too bright, not sure about ill though.

Anonymous Anonymous 21 August 22 22:39

Another example that Law firms need to take advice from a HR professional about employment law.

Garbanzo 22 August 22 10:19

I don’t know why you’re all so worked up about pee rages, but it needs to stop. Take a cold shower.

No, not that kind.

Pedant 22 August 22 10:32

Anon 20 August 22 07:17: "It is very telling that No Answer Woman has failed to give..."


If you're going to follow the conversation, follow it properly.

Anonymous 22 August 22 15:50

21st @ 22.47 - why, in that case it would almost certainly fail to register with me as any kind of notable event.

Even if it did strike me as a remark of interest my level of personal tumescence would remain unchanged one way or the other.

anon 22 August 22 16:01

Anonymous 20 August 22 10:41: Which news articles? What comments? Still no evidence provided. Very telling.

anon 22 August 22 16:05

Anonymous 19 August 22 09:06; Anonymous 19 August 22 12:29; Anonymous 19 August 22 14:19; Anonymous 19 August 22 14:22; Anonymous 20 August 22 09:57: why are you asking questions about strawberry jam?

Anonymous 22 August 22 19:25

@20th @7.17 - that is a false allegation. False allegations are unfortunately extremely common when it comes to sexual harassment, running at over 50%.

Anonymous 25 August 22 08:08

@22nd @ 16.01 - the past news articles and past comments. Evidence provided. Very telling.

Anonymous 25 August 22 08:09

@22nd @ 16.05 - why do you want to peer at Anonymous 19 August 22 09:06; Anonymous 19 August 22 12:29; Anonymous 19 August 22 14:19; Anonymous 19 August 22 14:22; Anonymous 20 August 22 09:57 for ages?

anon 25 August 22 08:11

Anonymous 22 August 22 19:25: Why is it a false allegation? Please provide evidence that you have provided evidence of the alleged high incidence of false allegations, with reference to specific cases where allegations have been found to be false, as invited to by Anon 19 August 22 13:22. Please provide evidence, with reference to specific cases where allegations have been found to be false, that "False allegations are unfortunately extremely common when it comes to sexual harassment, running at over 50%."

anon 25 August 22 11:18

It is a false allegation that Lord Lester was cleared by the BSB. It is also a false allegation that false allegations are extremely common when it comes to sexual harassment, whether running at over 50% or otherwise.

Lorena Dethridge 25 August 22 23:49


I am contacting you from Giejo Magazine as has been nominated by our readers to feature in our Spotlight section where we write about prominent entrepreneurs and their business stories with a view to inspiring others.

Please let me know if you are interested and please copy in myself at [email protected] and our junior editor, Natalia [email protected] into your reply.

I would appreciate if you could revert to me by the end of the week as we have a handful of nominees and a fairly short window.

Kind regards

Julia Davis
Giejo Magazine
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Anonymous 26 August 22 00:01

I think the tribunal was being a little mischievous when they said they didn't understand Barr's 'joke'.

Anonymous 26 August 22 07:41

Yes, evidence is very important. The evidence that false allegations are extremely common is the high amount of false allegations.

Anonymous 06 September 22 10:05

25th @ 8.11 - already provided

25th @ 11.18 - he was cleared. False allegations are extremely commin when it comes to claims of sexual harassment

27th @ 15.16 - Intel is a word sexists throw at people when they've lost an argument

30th @ 8.21 - yes he was cleared

Anon 06 September 22 18:53

It is very telling that Question Man has failed to give   evidence of the alleged high incidence of false allegations, with reference to specific cases where allegations have found to be false.

Anon 07 September 22 20:29

Still no evidence provided that Lord Lester was cleared. We can only conclude that he was not cleared.

Anon 07 September 22 20:34

Anonymous 06 September 22 10:05:

Still no evidence provided.

No evidence provided that he was cleared. What does the word "commin" mean?

Why are you referring to "Intel"?

Still no evidence provided that he was cleared.

Anonymous 08 September 22 23:25

The evidence of the high incidence of false allegations relating to sexual harassment is overwhelming and is growing by the minute.

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