Employers Beware as New Laws Give Rights to Couples
Byline: By Paul Cowie
Same sex couples are benefiting from new rights and are prepared to enforce them if they are breached. Paul Cowie outlines some of the recent changes.
The first tribunal decisions under the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 are coming through and, with organisations such as Outrage and Stonewall backing claims, there is little question the law will continue to be tested.
In one recent case (Brooks v Findlay Industries UK Limited), the tribunal found in favour of a gay employee offended by colleagues' derogatory remarks about his homosexuality, in particular inappropriate body language such as affecting a `mincing' walk and pretending to be limp-wristed. The employee considered the behaviour directed towards him, went on the sick and was dismissed. The employment tribunal awarded pounds 15,700 for unlawful discrimination and harassment and pounds 7,500 for unfair dismissal.
In another case, a substantial award of pounds 35,000 was awarded to a cleaning company employee following homophobic remarks. He was nicknamed `Sebastian' ( after a character in the Little Britain TV show.
It is becoming clear tribunals are prepared to make significant awards against employers in cases of sexual orientation discrimination ( even in cases of one-off remarks. Claims of this nature also tend to receive high profile Press coverage, which employers will be keen to avoid.
It's, therefore, essential that employers have in place an appropriate policy that provides a clear procedure for allegations of harassment to be dealt with appropriately. …