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February is LGBT History month

This February marked the third consecutive year that Leeds City Council has celebrated LGBT History Month. Leeds put on events including film screenings, LGBT history talks, social events, and even lit buildings in rainbow colours to celebrate the diversity the LGBT community brings to our urban landscape.   

The news has also been buzzing with LGBT headlines, some examples are as follows: 

  • The Australian Football League (AFL) has agreed for the first time to allow a transgender footballer, Hannah Mouncey, to play women’s football at state level.  
  • In other football news, a support group has been set up at Newcastle United for its LGBT fans. United with Pride was created by the Newcastle United Foundation, the club’s charitable arm, to tackle abuse and homophobic behaviour at matches. United with Pride will work to challenge discrimination of any kind and work towards inclusion for everyone.  
  • The UK is celebrating the 15th anniversary of the repeal of Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988, which prohibited local authority from promoting homosexuality or publishing material with the intention to promote homosexuality, in addition to promoting same-sex values in schools. 

Given the celebrations over the past month, we thought it served as a timely reminder to look at discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the workplace.   

Sexual orientation is one of nine protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 and discrimination on those grounds is prohibited.  Discrimination can be: 

  • direct – because of their sexual orientation; 
  • indirect – a provision, criterion or practice that places those of a certain sexual orientation at a disadvantage; 
  • harassment – subjecting someone to harassment related to their sexual orientation; or 
  • victimisation – victimising someone because they have or intend to enforce their rights under the Equality Act 2010. 

Here are two cases where employers have fallen foul of the law. 

  • In Bivonas LLP and others v Bennett 2015, a fee earner was found to have been discriminated against because of his sexual orientation after discovering a note from a firm’s partner saying he was giving work to his “batty boy mate”.  
  • In X v Y 2006, the disciplinary officer was held to have been influenced by homophobic comments made by the managing director in reaching the decision to dismiss X for accidentally sending a pornographic text message intended for his male partner to a female colleague. Thus, the decision was discriminatory.  

Here at SCE Solicitors, we are experts in helping businesses manage their employees.  If you have any queries about discrimination in the workplace, other staff issues or would like to discuss how we can be on hand to assist you with all your employment law needs, please contact me on 0113 350 4030 or at hello@scesolicitors.co.uk.

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SCE Solicitors is a boutique employment law and dispute resolution practice based in Leeds which advises clients nationwide.  Please note that the information in this blog is to provide information of general interest in a summary manner and should not be construed as individual legal advice. Readers should consult with SCE Solicitors or other professional counsel before acting on the information contained here.