Vodafone shop worker ‘asked to explain how lesbians have sex’ by manager wins huge payout

A Vodafone store with a Pride display in Greece

A Vodafone store worker who was asked by her manager how lesbians have sex has been awarded £30,000 at an employment tribunal.

The woman, identified as Ms C, faced discrimination from multiple managers and a co-worker while employed by Thistle Communications, a Vodafone partner franchise, she told the tribunal in Glasgow, Scotland.

She described how manager Bilal Shahid asked her: “How do lesbians have sex then? I’m intrigued.”

“I told him I wasn’t going to answer that question, and he asked me again after a customer left,” Ms C said.

On another occasion, she said Shahid asked her “inappropriate questions”, before commenting: “I mean I think it’s great you’re a lesbian but I can’t imagine having this conversation with a gay guy.”

Another manager at the Vodafone shop named Matthew Graham told her that she looked like a “normal lassie” rather than a lesbian, and insisted she was not “financially driven” because she had no children.

Ms C claimed she also heard Graham commenting on another gay woman, saying: “What a waste.”

“I don’t feel safe to return to an environment which humiliated me, alienated me and has made me need to seek counselling,” she said.

“This has cost me months of my life. I have endured those comments from start to finish in that employment and it has made me feel like irreparable damage has been caused, I have never been humiliated like that.

“Being asked to describe the inner workings of my sexual orientation to a grown man, whilst he smiles at me when asking, was so disturbing and I’ve never been so oversexualised in my personal life or working career.

“No other woman was asked that or subjected to the comments around their orientation, only me, because I am gay. I don’t think I will ever feel safe or comfortable enough now to disclose my sexuality to another employer.”

Thistle Communications, which has gone into liquidation since Ms C was employed, was ordered to pay £25,000 for injury to feelings, £1,100 for financial loss and £2,600 for failure to follow workplace procedures.