Lesbian Couple Win Compensation For Discrimination And Unfair Dismissal

A lesbian couple who were ‘humiliated’ by sexual jokes made about them by work colleagues have been awarded more than £22,000 in compensation.

Beth Moules and Sharleen Amos had worked as saleswomen for Bristol-based water purifier firm Aquatec Rainsoft since October 2006. The Bristol Employment Tribunal (ET) heard that a work colleague had joked with other members of staff that the women had a threesome with a sales manager, saying that he was ‘the meat sandwich between them’. He also branded the women’s sexuality as ‘disgusting’.

The couple were shocked by the outburst and made a complaint to their boss, but he told them to stop complaining because ‘lesbians never had and never would suffer in the way that Jews had’. He also told them that the colleague responsible for the taunts would not lose his job. Shortly after making the complaint, Ms Amos was sacked over the phone. Ms Moules then resigned and claimed constructive dismissal.

In April this year, the ET found that both women had been unfairly dismissed and had been discriminated against on the ground of their sexual orientation. In respect of the discrimination claim, Aquatec was ordered to pay each of them £5,000 in compensation for injury to feelings. The damages for unfair dismissal have now been fixed, with Ms Moules awarded £7,142 and Ms Amos £5,000.

Employers who tolerate a workplace culture in which one member of staff thinks it is acceptable to make jokes about the sexuality of another run the risk of paying a heavy penalty, as employees are protected by the law from having to withstand this kind of affront to their dignity.

The material contained in this article is provided for general purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice. Appropriate legal advice should be sought for specific circumstances and before action is taken.

© , October 2009

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