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Sexual orientation discrimination

The Employment Tribunal in the case of McMahon v Redwood TTM Limited and Pilling has ordered an employer to pay £8,000 to a previous employee as an injury to feelings award.

Background

The Claimant started working for Redwood TTM Limited and Pilling (“the Company”) in 2017. The Managing Director allegedly requested the Claimant not to disclose that she was a lesbian to her colleagues. The Managing Director said this was because there were no other gay people working for the Company at the time and that the business owner was “old school”.

In December 2017, the Company made a number of redundancies, including the Claimant’s role. The Claimant brought a number of claims including a claim for direct sexual orientation discrimination.

The Law

Under the Equality Act 2010, direct sexual orientation discrimination occurs where, because of sexual orientation, a person treats another less favourably than they would treat others.

Decision

The Employment Tribunal found the request by the Managing Director that the Claimant not disclose her sexual orientation at work amounted to direct sexual orientation discrimination as the same request would not be made of a heterosexual employee.

At the Tribunal hearing, the Claimant explained that the request had made her feel “odd and uncomfortable” but she felt she had to comply or there could be repercussions.

The Tribunal ordered the Company to pay £8,000 plus interest to the Claimant as an injury to feelings award.

Comment

The Employment Tribunal commented that it did not find the Managing Director to be homophobic in any way but that the request had been ill considered. This highlights how important Equal Opportunities training can be to protect employers from preventable discrimination claims.

 

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