Lesbian wins tribunal case against Next

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

An employment tribunal has ruled that the retailer Next’s failure to deal with a complaint of homophobic harassment amounted to unfair dismissal.

A lesbian woman won her case after persistent taunting and abuse at the hands of co-workers led her to quit her job.

Marlene Bielak, 34, told the tribunal that married couple Katrina and Neil Davies made no secret of their disgust for her gay lifestyle when they worked together at the Next store in St Helens, Merseyside.

Mrs Davies would play the Morrisey song All The Lazy Dykes everytime Mr Bielak entered the shop’s storeroom, and questioned whether she and her lesbian partner were suitable to raise their seven-year-old son.

When an argument broke out between the two women Mrs Davies, who claims to be a devout Christian, attacked Ms Bielak and called her a “f**king dyke.”

A formal complaint was not acted upon by the company, and Ms Bielak took sick leave, eventually resigning and taking Next to the employment tribunal.

The tribunal ruled that Ms Bielak had been harassed, and that Next had 14 months to deal with the complaint but failed to do so, which the tribunal ruled was unfair dismissal.

Ms Bielak will find out in July how much compensation she will receive.

She has claimed £124,000 damages for injury to feelings and loss of earnings.

“This woman was allowed to physically push me, she shouted and swore at me, called me a “f**king dyke” in front of other colleagues, and harassed and bullied me because of her religious beliefs,” Ms Bielak told the Daily Mail.

“She hated me simply because of the life I live. She claimed that I was a promiscuous person, simply because I am a lesbian, but nothing could be further from the truth.

“I have a partner who I love and we’ve been together for six years and are raising our son together.

“She shouldn’t have been allowed to get away with it and Next shouldn’t employ people who force their prejudices on others.”

Her successful case is just the latest high-profile example of gay and lesbian people winning employment tribunals.

Last month 32-year-old Jonah Ditton was awarded £120,000 by a Glasgow tribunal, so far the largest award ever for a case of sexual orientation discrimination.

A media sales manager for CP Publishing Ltd for only eight days, the nakedly homophobic behaviour of his boss was reflected in the compensation award.