A gay former employee of a Vodafone store in Scotland was awarded more than $30,000 for being asked sexually inappropriate questions at work.
The woman, identified only as Ms. C, sued her former employer, a Vodafone franchise called Thistle Communications, for sex and sexual orientation discrimination and harassment. She said she had been humiliated by a male manager asking “sexually explicit questions” of her, Yahoo News UK reports.
According to her complaint, she was exposed to numerous inappropriate conversations about her sexual orientation, including being asked, “How do lesbians have sex then, I’m intrigued” by a senior manager.
He repeated his question after Ms. C had declined to answer initially.
“I told him I wasn’t going to answer that question, and he asked me again after a customer left,” she said.
Ms. C explained the manager, Bilal Shahid, said to her: “I mean I think it’s great, you’re a lesbian but I can’t imagine having this conversation with a gay guy.”
A second manager, Matthew Graham, remarked upon her appearance, saying she looked “normal,” which led her to believe he thought her being a lesbian was abnormal.
According to Yahoo News UK, the court heard testimony about Graham remarking, “that’s a waste” when speaking of Ms. C’s sexuality.
The manager further indicated to her that he was okay with her loving whomever she wished, “but when it comes to affecting my child, I don’t think LGBT should be taught in schools.”
In the two months following her start date at the company, Ms. C went on sick leave and remained absent for several weeks before resigning after 15 weeks.
Afterward, she filed a complaint alleging discrimination, harassment, and unfair dismissal on the company’s part.
An employment tribunal in Glasgow ruled that asking her about her sex life was discriminatory and that she had been harassed because of her gender and sexual orientation.
Since she did not hold the job for a sufficient period, her unfair dismissal claim failed.
Before the verdict, Ms. C had testified about the effect the harassment had on her, according to Yahoo News UK.
“I don’t think [my former employers] have taken seriously the damage this has caused to my mental health,” Ms. C said. “I don’t feel safe to return to an environment which humiliated me, alienated me, and has made me need to seek counseling. This has cost me months of my life.”
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