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'Gay' harassment case far from over; LEGAL FINANCE.

A heterosexual worker tormented for years by banter and innuendo from colleagues implying he was homosexual because he had attended a public school and lived in Brighton, has failed to win his harassment case.

Stephen English took on Thomas Sanderson Blinds at Brighton Employment Tribunal, where it was claimed he had been subjected to years of sexual innuendo from colleagues, who suggested he was gay.

The tribunal heard the source of the torment came from a manager after learning that Mr English had gone to a public school and lived in Brighton.

Mr English brought a harassment claim against his employer under the Sexual Orientation Regulations 2003. However, after hearing the facts, the tribunal reluctantly dismissed his case saying that he was not covered by current regulations - despite accepting that the banter had an impact on his dignity and had created a hostile and intimidating atmosphere at work.

Mr English's appeal was again reluctantly dismissed, because the regulations did not protect him, since the banter was not based on a perception or even incorrect assumption that he was homosexual.

Employment law specialist Nick Bone, an associate at Harvey Ingram's Birmingham offices, said: "This is an interesting situation that has clearly posed a headache for the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

"The great irony here is that it was accepted by all parties that the claimant was not gay - despite the relentless torment - but if he had been, then there is absolutely no doubt that the tribunal would have found in his favour."

The case is still not yet resolved as Mr English's lawyers have indicated that they will be taking the case to the Court of Appeal.

And it could yet have far reaching consequences for discrimination law. A change to the definition of harassment to bring it in line with EC Directives could mean that employees who are teased in relation to an area of discrimination might be entitled to bring claims.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Apr 25, 2008
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