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Pole dancing is is a job best suited to women. Fish filleting, on the other hand, is more a job for the blokes. That's life, not discrimination, says Talley's Fisheries boss, Andrew Talley.

It's not exactly a comment you would expect from a company that has just been hit where it hurts by a High Court judgement over gender discrimination.

But Talley maintains that, despite that judgement, there's no place for strict equality in the workplace.

"Should you expect every second pole dancer or beautician to be male?" asked Talley when spoken to by the Herald on Sunday.

However, the High Court disagreed, rejecting Talley's appeal against a Human Rights Tribunal decision in 2005 that the fishing company had discriminated against Nelson woman Caitlin Lewis.

In 2002 Lewis complained to the Human Rights Commission, claiming she was prevented from being a filleter at Talley's Motueka fish processing plant because she was a woman.

The company had argued it was uncommon for women to be filleters because the job sometimes required lifting fish bins that weighed up to 30kg.

But the court said it was a clear case of discrimination and awarded her compensation for lost earnings.

Talley yesterday described the decision as "pathetic" and "a joke".

This is not the first time Talley's controversial views have landed him in hot water - and media headlines.

He and his brother Peter Talley of Nelson have previously spoken out in favour of whaling - and have even been accused of secretly funding the National Party. The family has denied it offered the party $1m in 2004.

Talley said as far as he was concerned there had been no discrimination against Lewis.

"In any job there are attributes that suggest it will be more likely to be done by either a man or a woman - that doesn't mean you discriminate," he said.

"There are jobs - pole dancing being one and fish filleting being another - that have a higher predominance of either men or women. The decision is a joke."

He said Talley's employed female fish filleters "and always has done as far as I'm concerned".

Employment law advocate Gary Tayler said the decision showed employers needed to have a "darned good reason" for hiring people based on gender.

Talley's is one of the largest privately owned companies in the South Island, employing close to 1000 fulltime staff and 600 extra staff in the peak season.

At the Auckland Fish Market, the Herald on Sunday found further proof that fish filleting wasn't just a job for the boys.

Mary Havili learned to use her filleting knives seven years ago and reckons "anything a man can do, a woman can do better".

"Men and women should be paid the same," she said.