Network Rail staff discriminated against female colleague by watching porn and asking about oral sex


Sexist male Network Rail staff discriminated against their female colleague by watching porn at work, asking her about oral sex and ‘deliberately using the word c*** around her’, tribunal rules

  • Network Rail staff watched porn and waved sex toys in their Wimbledon office
  • Rowena Owens was subject to ‘extreme sexism’ at the signal-centre from 2015
  • The panel ruled all 25 incidents she complained about were sex discrimination
  • Because the incidents happened too long ago, she won’t receive compensation

Sexist male Network Rail workers discriminated against their female colleague by watching porn in the office, asking her about oral sex and ‘deliberately using the word c*** around her, a tribunal found.

Rowena Owens was subjected to ‘extreme sexism’ by at least 16 colleagues at the male-dominated signal centre in Wimbledon, London, where they worked.

Signaller Ms Owens had a sex toy waved at her, had to put up with looking at images of topless women around the office, and said female train drivers were routinely unfairly criticised.

The employment tribunal held in Croydon, London, found there were at least 25 separate incidents of sex discrimination at the large Network Rail signal centre in Wimbledon.

But Ms Owens has lost her case and won’t receive any compensation – because she took the case to tribunal too late.

The employment tribunal held in Croydon, London (pictured) found that there were at least 24 incidents of sex discrimination Network Rail signal centre in Wimbledon. Because the incidents occurred too long ago, the case was dismissed and Ms Owens did not receive compensation

The employment tribunal held in Croydon, London (pictured) found that there were at least 24 incidents of sex discrimination Network Rail signal centre in Wimbledon. Because the incidents occurred too long ago, the case was dismissed and Ms Owens did not receive compensation

The employment tribunal heard Ms Owens moved to the Wimbledon site in November 2015, where there were only ‘two or three’ women out of about 40 staff in total.

On her first day at work, when Ms Owens offered to make tea for her colleagues, a male signaller referred to by the tribunal as ‘RS’ said ‘how do you like your oral sex, giving or receiving?’.

In December 2016, another colleague ‘MB’ watched a porn video while on duty and exclaimed ‘there’s nothing like a bit of dwarf porn’ while his son was sat next to him.

After Christmas 2016, Ms Owens started noticing two of her colleagues, ‘AF’ and ‘MB’, walk behind her while she was working and deliberately burp loudly as they walked past.

Around this time ‘WC’ sat next to Ms Owens and deliberately burped loudly and continuously for in excess of 15 minutes until she eventually had to ask him if he was OK.

For many weeks after this, several male colleagues would burp during a shift with her and loudly say ‘excuse me’.

The tribunal heard that, throughout her time working at Network Rail, her male colleagues made ‘deliberate and gratuitous use of the word c***’ around her ‘on practically every shift’ she worked.

Rowena Owens was subjected to ¿extreme sexism¿ by at least 16 colleagues at the male-dominated signal centre in Wimbledon, London. Pictured, Wimbledon train station

Rowena Owens was subjected to ‘extreme sexism’ by at least 16 colleagues at the male-dominated signal centre in Wimbledon, London. Pictured, Wimbledon train station

Network Rail admitted ‘in such an environment foul language is sometimes used’, but did not condone this.

Male colleagues left newspapers open in the kitchen with pictures of naked women inside them on show. Ms Owens said if she closed the paper, when she returned to the kitchen it would be open on the same page again.

She also complained of how ‘RS’ looked at almost naked women ‘with just two thin lines over their private parts’ on a work computer.

Regarding these kinds of incidents, Network Rail said it ‘did not condone any sort of pornographic material in the workplace and all employees have been trained in diversity and inclusion’.

‘MB’ once discussed rape scenes from movies for about 20 minutes with ‘DT’ and was ‘expressing pseudo concern’ while Ms Owens was the only woman in the room.

The tribunal heard Ms Owens complained about ‘BF’ coming back from the toilet and saying he had been ‘spanking the monkey’.

Not every incident complained about was overtly sexual.

Ms Owens also said, after a mistake had been made, she overheard a male co worker saying ‘this is what you get when you let women in the signal box’, before going on to mention something about ‘women’s hormones’.

At one point in her time at Network Rail, Ms Owens was told by ‘AF’ she should sit on another male employee’s lap ‘to pacify him’.

Ms Owens was referred to at one time as ‘the fat woman’, and the men she worked with would whistle a Laurel and Hardy tune or play the Antiques Roadshow theme song near her.

She also said female drivers were criticised differently to how male drivers were when they made a mistake.

On at least three occasions, she said she heard ‘PT’ say things like ‘do you think women should be in the workplace?’ and ‘I think women should be in the home’ while she was the only woman working.

The tribunal heard how this same worker, ‘PT’ also brought in a sex toy and showed people while looking at Ms Owens and smiling for about 15 minutes.

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Ms Owens claimed she was excluded from takeaway orders when male colleagues ordered food and was not made a vegetarian option at a team meal even though she was asked specifically about it.

She submitted a grievance in November 2017, highlighting these concerns and others, but it was dismissed.

After launching a claim of sex discrimination at the employment tribunal, the panel ruled all 25 incidents she complained about in her grievance were sex discrimination.

Employment Judge Anne Martin ruled: ‘All events happened, and all events were discriminatory on the grounds of sex.

‘This is not the case of the discrimination being the occasional sexist comment or pat on the bottom, the matters described are much more extreme.

‘The investigation [by Network Rail] was a shambles, and the conclusions reached were inadequate.’

However, because these sex discrimination incidents happened too long ago, the case was dismissed and Ms Owens will receive no compensation.

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