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Courts rule homophobic harassment is unlawful regardless of victimís sexual orientation

In a landmark case the Court of Appeal has ruled that current Employment Equality Laws should be extended to victims of homophobic abuse and bullying regardless of their actual sexual orientation.

Having received support from the Equality and Human Rights Commission Mr English, a heterosexual man brought a case against his former employer Thomas Sanderson Blinds.

Mr English had received years of abuse from his colleagues based on homophobic stereotypes.  The abuse had become so systematic, routine and accepted that jokes identifying him as gay where published on more than one occasion on the internal staff newsletter.

The case was dismissed by an Employment Tribunal on the grounds the claimant was himself not gay. After a subsequent appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal it was passed on to the Court of Appeal to clarify the law surrounding his treatment.

The implication of the ruling means protection for others who are subjected to harassment because they have what some people see as stereotypical qualities of members of a group currently protected under existing anti discrimination legislation.

In his judgement, Lord Justice Sedley said:

"You cannot legislate against prejudice. You can set out in specified circumstances to stop people's lives being made a misery of it.

The incessant mockery (banter trivialises it) created a degrading and hostile environment and it did so on grounds of sexual orientation"

John Wadham, Group Legal Director of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:

"Bullying is unacceptable, whatever your background - gay, straight, black or white. The fact that Stephen English’s colleagues knew he wasn’t gay, does not excuse their behaviour nor should it prevent him from enjoying the same rights to dignity and respect at work - the harassment he suffered was distressing.

Ends

Posted by

Dizali Mentha
Associate Publisher

 

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