Homophobic gestures amount to discrimination

A gay man has been awarded £7,500 compensation after a shop worker made homophobic gestures towards him.

For anonymity purposes, the gay man is referred to as “Tim”.

In 2013 Tim returned some locks that he had bought from a local locksmith's, Taylor Edwards. As Tim was leaving the shop the man serving him, Peter Edwards, blew him a sarcastic kiss.  In the following months, whenever Tim walked past the shop and Peter Edwards was outside, he made non-verbal homophobic gestures at Tim.  The gestures ranged from winking, a limp wrist gesture, making the shape of a teapot with his body and blowing kisses at him to actions inferring oral sex with a male.  These gestures were clearly offensive and distressing to Tim.

Tim brought a claim against the shop alleging discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. The Equality Act prevents anyone who supplies goods and services from discriminating against customers on a variety of grounds, including race, religion, age, disability or sexual orientation.

The Equality Act provides protection in a variety of situations, including at work, in education, as a consumer, when using public services, when buying or renting property and as a member or guest of a private club or association.

Even though Peter Edwards was on work breaks outside the shop at the times of gesturing, he was still found to be acting in the course of his employment, and Tim won and the judge awarded him damages.

The success of this case is significant because it demonstrates that completely non-verbal gestures amount to discrimination and that employers are responsible for the behaviour of their workforce in both words and gestures.

If you have any questions on the contents of this article or any other HR/ employment law matter please do not hesitate to contact our HR/ employment law specialist, Claire Berry on 01480 442040 or email claire.berry@leedsday.co.uk

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