Test case for straight man who suffered homophobic abuse at work

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A 56-year-old married man who was repeatedly taunted at work about being gay because he lives in Brighton has taken his case to the Court of Appeal.

An employment tribunal and an appeal tribunal have both rejected his claims of discrimination.

Stephen English suffered years of abuse and insinuation from colleagues at Thomas Sanderson Blinds, based near Portsmouth, where he had worked in sales.

His ordeal started when a colleague discovered he had been at boarding school and lives in Brighton, a city with a large gay population.

Mr English told the tribunal that he “regularly had to endure remarks such as ‘faggot’ at national sales meetings, team meetings at my home and regional managers’ meetings.

“These comments caused considerable distress both to myself and to my family, who were at home on occasions when I held team meetings and overheard comments referring to my perceived sexual orientation.”

The appeal tribunal referred the case to the Court of Appeal, in order to clarify if EU laws protecting people from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in employment apply to a heterosexual man being subjected to homophobic abuse.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is funding his case, which is now before the Court of Appeal.

“Currently it is unclear whether those in situations similar to Mr English’s benefit from the protection of the law,” an EHRC spokesperson said.

“A positive ruling would help a wide range of individuals who have suffered harassment based on out-of-date stereotypes.

“This is a case about fair treatment in the work-place.”

The EHRC is tasked with promoting a fair, equal and diverse society and tackling illegal discrimination.

It was established by the Equality Act 2006 and began work in October 2007.

It brought together the three existing UK equality commissions – the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Disability Rights Commission.

The EHRC incorporates four new human rights strands – age, sexual orientation, gender identity and religion and belief.