HSBC wins orientation discrimination case

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Multinational bank HSBC has said it is pleased with today’s decision by an employment tribunal that they did not discriminate against an employee on the grounds of his sexual orientation.

Peter Lewis, a former head of equity at HSBC, won a partial victory last year when a tribunal ruled that the bank had discriminated against him on four grounds because of his sexual orientation.

However, he was unable to prove discrimination in relation to 12 other grounds, including his dismissal from the bank in 2004 for gross misconduct.

After a series of appeals, the original tribunal in 2006 was judged to have gone beyond what it had been asked to rule on.

A new tribunal has now decided his claims “were not well-founded” and dismissed them.

An HSBC spokesman said:

“We have always maintained that the allegations of differential treatment by Mr Lewis on the grounds of his sexual orientation were wholly lacking in factual foundation.

“The judgment of the original tribunal held that the principal aspects of the disciplinary process were not discriminatory, including the decision to dismiss Mr Lewis and the refusal of his appeal against dismissal.

“The two judgments therefore fully vindicate HSBC’s position that Mr Lewis was never discriminated against at any stage and all of his claims have now been rejected.

“He was dismissed for gross misconduct following a complaint of sexual harassment made against him by another member of staff — and for no other reason.

“HSBC was and is fully committed to equal opportunities for all staff and workplace diversity. We are equally committed to protecting all staff from sexual harassment, whatever the gender or sexual orientation of the victim and whatever the gender or sexual orientation of the harasser and whatever his or her seniority.”

Mr Lewis was sacked by the banking giant in February 2005 for “gross personal misconduct.”

The incident in question related to an alleged encounter between Mr Lewis and another male employee of the bank, which ultimately resulted in a complaint of sexual harassment.

Peter Lewis’ solicitor, Alison Downie of Bindman Partners, said:

“My client won four findings of discrimination by HSBC during his

first tribunal last year.

“For technical reasons, because that tribunal on hearing the evidence went even further than he had asked them and found that the bank’s Human Resources representative had also effectively acted dishonestly, those four claims of discrimination were re-heard by a new tribunal last week.

“My client is obviously disappointed in the result of the second

hearing and the decision of a different tribunal.

“As a senior, well-respected employee with an impeccable 20 year career, he did nothing wrong and firmly believes that in investigating a false allegation against him he was treated differently because he is gay.

“He maintains he was the victim of prejudice and outdated beliefs in stereotypes of gay behaviour within HSBC. He is pleased that his case has helped to highlight the continuing discrimination faced by gay employees and to encourage much needed change.

“He is also grateful for the many messages of support he has received.”