In a recent case, Ms C v Thistle Communications Ltd, an employee was compensated with over £30,000. The Employment Tribunal found that the employee had been harassed and discriminated against because of her sexual orientation.
What Exactly Happened?
Ms C worked for Thistle Communications and reported to two store owners, Bilal (Billy) Shahid and Matthew Graham. One day Billy asked her how lesbians have sex; she didn’t answer the question. He then proceeded to ask her again after some customers left the shop. This made her feel extremely uncomfortable and harassed.
In another incident, Matthew asked Ms C what a “fag hag” is. He also told her that he accepted the “love who you love” notion but didn’t want his kids to learn about the LGBTQ+ community at school. Ms C told the Tribunal that at one point he said she looks like a “normal lassie” to him, indicating that being gay is abnormal. She also heard him say “what a waste” about another lesbian woman.
These were some of the main incidents that led Ms C to feel harassed because of her sexual orientation. In her claim, she also revealed to the ET that Billy said he would not want to have this conversation with a gay man because he doesn’t “want that on him”.
Ms C felt that she was being asked questions which would not have been asked of any heterosexual person. She felt there was an expectation for her to answer personal and inappropriate questions which would not have been the case if she was heterosexual. In addition, she mentioned to the Tribunal, “Billy was asking inappropriate questions for sexual gratification”.
She was made to feel abnormal because she did not fit into the stereotypical look of a lesbian woman. This made her feel discriminated against and invalidated because she struggled to deal with her sexuality from a young age.
These comments made by both store managers only brought back those traumatic moments for her when she struggled as a child. She was intimidated because of the tone that was being used with her and felt objectified solely because of her sexual orientation.
What The Employment Tribunal Has to Say
Other than having to decide whether Ms C faced harassment based on sexual orientation, ET also had to see if the respondent took measures to avoid the harassment.
After carefully assessing everything Ms C had to say plus the evidence, ET found that she was subjected to harassment. Both store managers had conducted themselves inappropriately and made her feel “less than”. In addition to this, ET also thought that the respondent did not take adequate measures to avoid said harassment.
During the course of her employment, Ms C had mentioned to other employees that she took legal action against her previous employers. Upon further questioning, Ms C admitted to the ET that she did say this but only to reiterate that sexual harassment and harassment based on sexual orientation can have legal consequences. The ET accepted this explanation.
The full judgement of the ET can be found here