Lesbian employee told to keep sexuality secret due to ‘old school’ boss
An employment tribunal ruled in favour of a lesbian employee who said she was being discriminated against on the basis of her sexual orientation.
Ashleigh McMahon, the lesbian employee named by the Daily Mail, brought her former employer Redwood TTM Limited and her former direct manager Darren Pilling in front of the Liverpool tribunal in September.
McMahon was employed at the Lancashire-based company as a quality control manager for eight months between May and December 2017, when she was made redundant.
The lesbian employee was asked “not to make it common she was gay as the owner of the business was old school.”
McMahon alleged unfair dismissal on a number of counts of the Employment Rights Act as well as on the ground of sex and sexual orientation as per the Equality Act (EqA).
Employment judge Jim Wardle dismissed all claims besides that of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
McMahon said she had told Pilling of her sexual orientation during her first week of employment. According to court documents, Pilling asked her “not to make it common she was gay as the owner of the business (Mr Brian Atherton) was old school and that the company did not have any other gay people working for it.”
The woman said that she found the request odd and it made her uncomfortable, but that she decided to comply as she had only just started the job and was fearful of possible repercussions.
Pilling denied the conversation taking place, but Judge Wardle believed McMahon instead.
“In terms of these alleged discriminatory acts we believed that the claimant did make Mr Pilling aware of her sexuality early into her employment, despite his protestations to the contrary.
“Whilst not considering him to be homophobic in any way, we also believed that he did suggest that she kept it under wraps as we felt that the reference to Mr Atherton being ‘old school’ had a ring of authenticity about it,” the tribunal found, according to court documents.
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The court concluded there was enough evidence to indicate McMahon had been treated unfairly in virtue of being a lesbian: “Her complaint in respect of direct discrimination on the grounds of her sexual orientation contrary to section 13 of EqA is well-founded and succeeds.”
Lesbian employee felt uncomfortable about Christmas party having to keep her sexuality secret
McMahon alleged that the issue of her sexuality came up at least twice during her employment.
Once, in the form of a dispute over possession of a radio in her office—Pilling had told her to remove it even though her other colleagues remained in possession of their own radio for several weeks thereafter.
“When she asked him if the denial of a radio to her was because she was gay and he was uncomfortable with this he stuttered and went bright red before saying no though he was unwilling to allow her to bring her radio back in until everyone else’s radios were removed,” court documents read.
Then came the issue of a Christmas party. McMahon decided she felt uncomfortable attending because of Pilling’s request of keeping quiet about being lesbian. Yet she was told that, as the number of attendees had already been confirmed, she would have to pay for her ticket regardless.
“She says that she vented this frustration at Mr Pilling but that he merely sat there, stared and shrugged his shoulders before saying that it was her problem,” court documents read.