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Grandmother sucking eggs is sexist
A former HSBC manager has claimed that using the phrase “telling a grandma how to suck eggs” can be sexist, with an employment tribunal set to rule if she is a victim of discrimination.
Ms Rubinder Sukkersudha claims she was treated unlawfully by colleagues at the bank on the grounds of her sex before she was dismissed from her £66,000-a-year role as an audit manager. According to legal documents outlining Ms Sukkersudha’s claims, the comment “telling a grandma how to suck eggs” was cited as one example of the alleged sexual harassment she suffered during her six months employment with the company.
Lawyers for HSBC argued in a preliminary hearing that the phrase is a “generic colloquial turn of phrase” which is “not derogatory of women”. HSBC’s legal counsel Caroline Musgrave further argued the phrase commonly refers to teaching someone information they already know which cannot amount to harassment “on the grounds of sex”.
First thought to have been used in the English language in the 18th century, to teach one’s grandmother to suck eggs refers to the needless giving of advice to someone who already knows more than the person offering it. It is thought to have first been coined by the Spanish satirist Francisco de Quevedo in 1707. Sucking eggs would have been common among the toothless elderly before modern dentistry but it may also be linked to the term “suck-egg”, meaning fool. Similar phrases exist in France and Italy.
The company insists Ms Sukkersudha lost her job because she failed her probationary period following poor performance. However, Judge Veronica Dean has said all claims put forward by Ms Sukkersudha, including the “sucking eggs” remark, amounted to harassment and will be examined at an upcoming employment tribunal. Judge Dean said: “The allegations of harassment will be considered by a tribunal hearing all of the evidence. In context, taken together there is an arguable case that the treatment of Ms Sukkersudha may be considered to be based upon sexual stereotypes and constitute harassment because of Ms Sukkersudha’s sex.”
The preliminary hearing for the tribunal heard Ms Sukkersudha has alleged “unlawful direct discrimination because of her sex”, unfair dismissal, and “victimisation” in addition to allegations of harassment”. According to legal documents, Ms Sukkersudha started with the company in June 2019 and then lost her job in December of that year ”as a result of having asserted her statutory right” not to be made to opt-out of the “Working Time Regulation”, otherwise known as the working time directive.
According to the preliminary hearing she claimed she was “asked to work too many hours and as a result her health suffered”. According to employment law workers cannot work more than 48 hours a week on average unless they opt-out of the regulations. It was heard that Ms Sukkersudha made a protected disclosure (an act of whistle-blowing) about her issues surrounding long work hours and that she claims she was discriminated against as a result of her action. “Similarly the claimant asserts that the decision to terminate her employment was an act of victimisation after she had raised concerns of bullying and harassment,” the legal documents claim.
HSBC has rejected the allegations asserting the reason for Ms Sukkersudha’s dismissal was that “she performed poorly and failed probation”.
A full hearing will take place at a later date.