Father in 'gay taunting' case gets support from Equality Commission

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is to help a man take his case to the Court of Appeal after he was subjected to persistent homophobic banter from his work colleagues.

Stephen English, who is married and has three children, worked as a salesman for Thomas Sanderson Blinds in Portsmouth. He claimed that his work colleagues started calling him names and making homophobic comments to him after they found out that he had gone to a public school and that he lived in Brighton.

Mr English found the taunting so distressing that he felt he had to give up his job. He made a complaint of harassment under the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 but the tribunal rejected his claim because he was not actually gay and his work colleagues did not believe him to be gay even though they taunted him.
This meant he was not protected by the regulations because the taunting was not due to his sexual orientation but rather because his colleagues were reacting to stereotypical factors such as his having attended a public school and the fact that he lived in Brighton.

That ruling was upheld by the Employment Appeals Tribunal. However, Mr English’s case has now been taken up by the Equality and Human Rights Commission which believes the law needs to be clarified. A spokesman said a positive ruling by the Court of Appeal would help people who suffer harassment based on stereotypes.

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