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Severe Consequences of Homophobic Banter in the Workplace

23 February 2011 #Employment


The BBC reported dozens of stickers circulated around gay pubs in Shoreditch and outside a Whitechapel school, consisting of numerous homophobic messages (‘Gay Free Zone`) and a reference to the Islamic Koran to support it.

The implications for the perpetrators are considerable under criminal law if they are caught, but it`s useful to remind people of the possible legal implications of what they may regard as harmless gay banter extending into the workplace.

Under the Equality Act, made effective from 1 October 2010, if a gay colleague finds themself in earshot of such banter and takes offence, they are fully within their rights to complain to the necessary body in their organisation on grounds of harassment. This complaint could easily lead to a charge of gross misconduct against those culpable for the banter, providing grounds for a subsequent reasonable dismissal. Not only will the employer be liable for a potential payout, so may the individual(s) who participated in the banter.  Those who go further than just banter and actively victimise a colleague who complains of harassment because of their sexual orientation can leave their employer (and themselves) susceptible to large compensation payouts. Contrary to popular belief, employment claims regarding sexual orientation discrimination are by no means restricted to homosexual and bisexual employees. A former bouncer of a gay club in Bournemouth won her claim for harassment suffered on account of her being heterosexual after her manager made comments, including calling her "a breeder" (indicating in a derogatory way that she was heterosexual). The Claimant was awarded £3k for injury to feelings.

Employers therefore have to watch carefully that individual`s personal beliefs are not brought into the workplace and expressed to the detriment of others. 

Clarkslegal, specialist Employment lawyers in London, Reading and throughout the Thames Valley.
For further information about this or any other Employment matter please contact Clarkslegal's employment team by email at employmentunit@clarkslegal.com by telephone 020 7539 8000 (London office), 0118 958 5321 (Reading office) or by completing the form on this page.

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Helen Beech

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