gay issues

...they go for walks.

An HR manager at a top City firm warned a gay associate that going for walks with his gay colleague was 'not a good look' and could damage their careers, RollOnFriday has learned.

RollOnFriday is not naming the firm at the request of one of the lawyers in order to protect his identity.

After the friends went for a walk at lunchtime round Lincoln's Inn in 2016, an HR manager organised a meeting with the junior associate, 'Walker'.

The intended purpose of the meeting was to discuss the grief counselling the lawyer was receiving after a death in his family. 

However, instead of a check-up, the HR manager questioned Walker about a partnership application being made by the gay senior associate with whom he was friends, and asked Walker for negative feedback.

When Walker refused to criticise his colleague, the HR manager allegedly told him, "From where I’m sitting it’s not looking good. You are both gay and go for walks in the park together".  

"And it’s lonely at the top”, she added, apparently implying that partners - or perhaps just gay ones - needed to lead a solitary life.

When Walker told the senior associate what had occurred, he challenged the HR manager and made a complaint.

"She initially denied it, but then repeated the same statements again directly to him", Walker told RollOnFriday. "Seemingly still not understanding that they were homophobic."  

To compound matters, said Walker, the senior partner in his team "took me into an empty office and bollocked me for having told [the senior associate] what happened", said Walker.

"She was very cross and upset" that the Managing Partner had learned of the incident, said Walker, and "told me not to report issues to HR regarding further inappropriate comments made by a trainee".

When the senior associate was made up to the partnership he dropped his complaint. But Walker, who left and is now a partner at another, boutique, City firm, brought his own grievance.

In response, the firm instructed another firm to conduct an investigation into the matter. Walker has branded its findings "a whitewash". 

The report concluded in December 2020 that "the clear view of everyone we spoke to was that the person who made the remark did not have any homophobic intent but had expressed herself clumsily".

It conceded that "in hindsight", a "training need around the use of language may have been missed with the individual who made the remark at the time". 

However, it considered that the firm "now has in place appropriate policies, procedures and personnel to deal with such a situation if it were to arise today". 

The HR manager is no longer at the firm, RollOnFriday understands, but Walker was unconvinced things had changed. "There is only one out gay male partner in the partnership. Statistically there should be far more", he said. "The firm pays lip service to the issue but there is no real appetite to root out homophobia if it involves rainmakers who bring in lots of money".

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Anonymous 05 February 21 10:14

"... the HR manager allegedly told him, "From where I’m sitting it’s not looking good. You are both gay and go for walks in the park together".  "And it’s lonely at the top”, she added"


I'm all for giving people the benefit of the doubt.  It's all too easy to jump on the Twitter-mob bandwagon and demand recourse for an innocent mistake or clumsy remark.

But what was the actual intent/meaning behind the HR manager's 'clumsy' remark?  To me it's homophobic no matter how you look at it.

Anonymous 05 February 21 10:25

This makes me so cross but it doesn't surprise me. I am often asked how my "special friend" is (my partner of 13 years).

GotRid 05 February 21 10:30

Clearly the law firm's method of dealing with it was to get rid of the HR Manager. 


Anonymous 05 February 21 10:32

I wonder how long they can keep this quiet.

It's not going to be a good look w̶h̶e̶n̶ if it comes out.

Anonymous 05 February 21 11:15

"the clear view of everyone we spoke to was that the person who made the remark did not have any homophobic intent but had expressed herself clumsily"

Expressed herself the same way twice, once in the context of a complaint, then denying it, then getting a partner involved to give a bollocking... But all of that was 'clumsy'?

What a load of BS.

Anonymous 05 February 21 12:28

Gosh, how unusual HR would take a dim view of colleagues helping/supporting each other. I’m sure we don’t know everything about what actually went on, but on current optics, and to quote this HR manager, this appears to be “not a good look”. 

Anonymous 05 February 21 13:24

As an employee, I would never trust anyone in HR as far as I could throw them. Rightly or wrongly, their first priority is always to protect the business - first and foremost every time. So beware! I've learnt the hard way to always treat HR with extreme caution. They are most definitely not your friend! 

Anonymous 05 February 21 13:26

"Lonely At The Top" - maybe she was a fan of the Ordinary Boys and trying to encourage him to listen to them? 

Toby Greenlord, Slayer of Dragons 05 February 21 13:43

I was taught that the primary purpose of HR is to make sure the company doesn't get sued by its own employees.

I don't think she's going to be very good at it.

Divide and conquer 05 February 21 13:51

To be fair going for walks with colleagues should be frowned upon and, if necessary, stamped out. It’s walks one minute then before you know it they’ve left to set up a boutique litigation practice. 

Lydia 05 February 21 16:35

What was she thinking? I didn't realise there were restrictions on who you go on walks with at work.

Anonymous 05 February 21 20:06

This is utterly bonkers. I'm a senior equity partner at a magic circle firm. I am also openly gay. It's 2021. 

Anon 06 February 21 15:11

I'm also an openly gay equity partner at a city firm. It has been harder for sure but I've seen significant change.

Anonymous 06 February 21 16:19

Walking While Gay?? What were they thinking!

By the same token, all walks involving heterosexual personnel of different genders are of course, prohibited, unless their husbands or wives are present.

For those staff members who are unmarried, parents or guardians can be called upon to supervise instead.

Anon 07 February 21 09:38

Interesting that there's still some downvotes on the sympathetic remarks here.  Maybe worrying is a better word.  

Olafur 08 February 21 15:33

Some public parks, at a certain time of night, might be best avoided for career progression but I've never head of Lincoln's Inn as being one  of them...

Anonymous 08 February 21 23:12

This HR person sounds like an employment tribunal just waiting to happen.

Mind you, the response of the firm and the partners is perhaps worse.  As with so many of these things the cover-up is worse than the original offence.

It's that response, 'Walker' being reprimanded for telling the Senior Associate what happened, that makes me want to know which firm it was.  The HR meeting could be put down to stupidity and inexperience.  The follow-up can not.

Time Traveller 09 February 21 08:56

I think this is an old story from circa 1991, no?

Surely no-one would think like that in 2021?

Anon 11 February 21 16:05

I agree - it’s the cover up which is insidious. The original HR comment was gross and dumb but not as creepy as what went after 

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