UK: Tribunal hears boss called gay man a ‘c*** sucker’ and asked if he had AIDS

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A managing director in Surrey, who used homophobic language to describe a gay employee, also asked if the man had AIDS, an employment tribunal has heard.

Office manager Jack Howell, 36, said he was “mortified” when his boss Peter Chambers made the comment after he exited a toilet looking pale and sweaty.

In April last year, Mr Howell fell ill and was diagnosed by his GP with Raynaud’s Phenomenon – a condition that affects the blood supply to parts of the body.

He said: “Although I had returned to work after my doctor’s appointment, I was still not feeling well and, as I was walking down the stairs, Mr Chambers said to me: ‘What’s up with you?’

“When I mentioned that I was feeling really rough, he commented: ‘What’s wrong with you, is it AIDS?’”

Mr Howell said he was “mortified” by what his boss had said, adding: “I was horrified. I’m a gay man and the stereotype is still there – that it is a gay illness.”

Mr Howell claimed colleagues were shocked when he told them about the remark and that Mr Chambers started to ignore him from then on.

He said he didn’t raise a formal grievance because his line manager was Mr Chambers’ wife Emma, who is finance director at the firm based in Guildford, Surrey.

The Mail reports Mr Chambers, who founded Chambers Waste Management Plc in 1964, also admitted calling Mr Howell a “c*** sucker” in a phone call to his wife.

The managing director claimed he was not his “usual self” that day as he had been at a coroner’s inquest into the death of his father who had died in an accident months earlier.

Chambers Waste Management Plc denies discriminating against Mr Howell and claims the 36-year-old made disparaging comments about Mrs Chambers in a Facebook post.

However, Mr Howell told the tribunal his online comment simply referred to him falling out with his drug-addicted brother – and was not about Mrs Chambers.

Two weeks later, Mr Howell was called back into Mrs Chambers’ office and informed he was at risk of redundancy because the company no longer needed a skip office manager.

Following a further meeting on 3 June, Mr Howell accessed the company’s recorded phone logs and listened to calls made between Mr and Mrs Chambers – where he heard Mr Chambers refer to him as “the c*** sucker”.

Mr Howell, of Deepcut, Surrey, left the office on 3 June. He was signed off work and prescribed anti-depressants before formally handing in his resignation on 28 June.

He told the tribunal panel in Reading that his trust and confidence in the Chambers had “ended” and that he was placed in an “impossible situation.”

Mr Chambers denied he was homophobic and dismissed Mr Howell’s claims that he had engineered the redundancy scheme to force him out of a job.

Mr Chambers accepted at the hearing this week that the AIDS comment was “inappropriate” but said it was “office banter”.

The tribunal continues.