Ashleigh McMahon was found to have been the victim of discrimination at the place of work after her employer requested her to keep her sexual orientation under wraps.
McMahon, a quality control manager at Redwood, had disclosed to her boss that she was gay during her first week on the job, who informed her that she should not disclose this within the company as she was the only known homosexual person to be employed there at the time and because the owner of the company was rather conservative.
McMahon felt pressured to obey these instructions, considering that she had just began to work for her employer, although she informed the Tribunal at her hearing that she felt “odd and uncomfortable” when faced with this request.
Numerous claims were brought by McMahon before the Employment Tribunal following her being made redundant following seven months of employment with the company. Most of these claims were rejected by the Tribunal, however her claim for direct discrimination on the grounds of her sexual orientation was upheld.
Although it was determined that McMahon’s boss did not appear homophobic, the claim of discrimination was upheld because essentially, McMahon had been treated differently and less favourably than other employees on the basis of her sexual orientation by being asked to keep a substantial part of her private life secret – a part, one may say, which in no way remains a subject which cannot be openly discussed in this day and age. While the intentions behind this request were probably noble and intended to protect the employee, employers must still be wary of doing (or refraining from doing) anything which may cause a differentiation to be drawn between employees on the basis of sexual orientation.