Mr A (who is anonymous for legal reasons), 22, worked at Stoke and District Horticultural Society when he was subjected to the unwanted conduct. He complained to his employer that he was being groped by Robert Simmonds, chairman, treasurer and secretary of the organisation, but instead of taking action to redress this Mr A was sacked. He subsequently issued an unfair dismissal claim and claims for sexual harassment, direct sexual orientation discrimination and breach of contract in the Employment Tribunal.
Read more: What is sexual harassment at work?
The Employment Tribunal found that Mr Simmonds had groped Mr A and that he had insisted that Mr A had been gay. This constituted unwanted conduct (related to Mr A’s sexuality) which had the effect of offending or embarrassing him. He was therefore successful in his claim for sexual harassment. The Tribunal also found that the reason for Mr A’s dismissal was the fact that he complained that he had been harassed by Mr Simmonds. The less favourable treatment (his dismissal) was thus related to his protected characteristic (his sexuality) and he was successful in his claim for direct sexual orientation discrimination. Equally, the Employment Tribunal found that the reason for Mr A’s dismissal was his complaints and that no reasonable employer would have dismissed him for this. There was therefore also a finding of unfair dismissal.
Mr A told – in the Employment Tribunal – how he had complained of Mr Simmonds’ acts but received a letter just days later from the society secretary which informed him that he was being suspended. He told the Tribunal that “Bob” Simmonds had approached him and told him that “it was okay to be gay” and that he “kept asking me about my sexuality and said I must be gay and it was fine to be gay. I kept telling him I was not gay”. He also related how Mr Simmonds had groped him on two separate occasions – once when he rubbed his arms up and down Mr A’s body and a second time at a poker night when Mr Simmonds stroked Mr A’s knee.
Mr A told the Tribunal that his had affected his confidence and that he was “shocked and repulsed” by Mr Simmonds’ actions. He said that the incidents had left him needing to obtain counselling.
The Employment Tribunal found in Mr A’s favour and ordered that £7,000 in damages be paid to Mr A by Mr Simmonds, chairman Mrs Cringle, secretary Mrs Milstead and committee member Ron Moorby. Mrs Milstead later claimed that she was “fed up” with the matter and that she disputed that the allegations amounted to harassment. She further stated that the insurers were refusing to pay out and that the above four persons would have to “fork this out” themselves.