Aer Lingus crew member loses sexism claim after saying uniform keeps ‘trolley dolly’ image going

Aer Lingus’ cabin service manager claimed that the airline’s new uniform perpetuates the “trolley-dolly” image of female cabin crew members. Pictured: The uniform was worn by cabin crew at the 2020 launch

Aer Lingus cabin services manager claims that the airline’s new uniform perpetuates a ‘trolley-dolly” image of female cabin crew members. She has failed to prove her discrimination claim.

Elizabeth Barry, a long-serving employee at Aer Lingus, claimed that the sexualization in Aer Lingus’ female uniform was inappropriate and degrading within a professional environment.

Ms Barry claimed that she felt degraded by her professional duties, as the new uniform “portrays an outdated sexualised image of women”

Aer Lingus, however, rejected Ms Barry’s discrimination claim. They also defended the uniform, which was introduced February 2020 by Louise Kennedy, one of Ireland’s most well-known designers.

Jim Dolan, Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), adjudicator found that Ms Barry wasn’t discriminated against based on her gender over the uniform. Her complaint was also not well-founded.

Ms Barry claimed as part her claim that the shirt or blouse worn daily by female cabin crew members has three holes above the left breast.

Ms Barry stated this exposes skin just below the left breast. Aer Lingus found it demeaning and humiliating to enforce an appearance policy that reinforces sexist stereotypes of sex and sexual inequalities in a workplace that’s equally physically demanding of women and men.

Ms Barry claimed that the less practical appearance of the women’s uniform and its functions ‘are unnecessarily inconvenient, impractical, and places them into a subordinate role to their male counterparts, who then appear more competent and professional than the female cabin crew’.

Leanora Frwley, a barrister representing Ms Barry stated that female crew members must wear heels outside and in uniform unless they are granted a medical exemption letter. It was argued that high heels are strongly associated with female sexuality.

Aer Lingus Rejected Ms Barry'S Discrimination Claim And Defended The New Uniform, Which Was Introduced In February 2020 And Was Designed By One Of Ireland'S Best-Known Designers, Louise Kennedy (Pictured)

Ms Barry’s discrimination claims were rejected by Aer Lingus and the new uniform was defended by Aer Lingus. It was introduced in February 2020 by Louise Kennedy (pictured).

Ms Barry also claimed that the handbag given to female cabin crew members ‘is decorative, impractical’ and is smaller than the satchel given to male staff. This reinforces an old stereotype of feminine appearance and sacrifices functionality for that image.

Ms Barry stated that “Aer Lingus continues to perpetuate the “trolley-dolly” image of female cabin crew with uniform and accessories’.

Ms. Barry has been with Aer Lingus since 1994, and has been a cabin crew member since 1995. She he was seeking an order requiring equal treatment in the provision a uniform and accessories equally practical.

Aer Lingus replied that Ms Barry had not been discriminated against on account of her gender, or any other reason, regarding the new uniform.

Aer Lingus stated, “The fact that an individual might not like an element of the design doesn’t make it discriminatory.”

Aer Lingus stated that the uniform allows for a trousers option for female cabin crew members and that a cardigan can also be worn underneath the jacket in cold weather. This addresses concerns raised by Ms Barry regarding the sleeve length.

Ms Barry Claimed That She Was Degraded In Her Professional Duties As The New Uniform 'Portrays An Outdated And Sexualised Image Of Women'. Pictured: An Aer Lingus Air Hostess Wearing The 1959 Uniform

Ms Barry claimed she felt degraded in her professional duties because the new uniform ‘portrays a outdated and sexualized image of women’. Pictured: Aer Lingus air hostess in the 1959 uniform

According to the airline, Louise Kennedy, a designer, spoke to Aer Lingus staff while she was flying with them, because she was concerned about comfort and quality, especially for items like shoes and overcoats.

The airline stated that Ms Kennedy was asked to refresh and modernize the garments of all crew members while maintaining a unique look for the airline.

Aer Lingus argued that Ms Barry’s grievances regarding the uniform had not been raised internally, either as an individual grievance by Ms Barry or as a collective complaint by her union colleagues since February 2020 when the new uniform was introduced.

Tom Mallon, a barrister representing Aer Lingus, stated that Ms Barry, a union representative herself is well-placed for raising any concerns about her role as cabin crew member through the appropriate forums.

Mr Dolan’s findings revealed that Ms Barry was asked by him whether she accepted that the female uniform should differ from the male uniform. Her answer was yes.

He After reviewing the complaint, it was found that Ms Barry had not been discriminated against, and that the complaint is unfounded.

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