An Employment Appeal Tribunal has upheld that law firm Bivonas LLP discriminated against a lawyer on the basis of sexual orientation.
The lawyer only identified as Mr. Bennett, based his discrimination claim on a memo from one of the firm’s partners. It falsely implied that Mr. Bennett only selected gay barristers and said he should be sacked. After lodging a grievance, Mr. Bennett said the firm tried to intimidate him into withdrawing his claim.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal agreed that the content of the memo was “a professional slur of the utmost gravity”. It also agreed that the conduct of his grievance was discriminatory.
The tribunal considered if a ‘reasonable’ worker would think the memo had put them at a disadvantage. It decided that other people would have been insulted if the memo had been about them.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal found no evidence that heterosexual men had been insulted in the same way as Mr. Bennett for being gay. Nor could the law firm provide justification for treating Mr. Bennett differently to other employees.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission funded Mr. Bennett’s defence against the law firm’s appeal.
John Wadham, Group Director Legal, Equality and Human Rights Commission said: “Homophobia will not be tolerated in the workplace or anywhere else. We funded Mr. Bennett’s defence and this win has set a precedent for discrimination law.”