Surrey: Boss made to pay damages for asking gay employee if he had AIDS

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A managing director in Guildford, who asked a gay employee whether he had AIDS, has been made to pay damages of £700.

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.

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.”

Employment Judge Andrew Gumbiti-Zimuto said in his ruling: “Such a comment would not have been made to a person who was not a gay man.

“We do not consider such a comment would have been made to a heterosexual man or a woman in similar circumstances.

“The only sensible explanation the tribunal can find is on the basis of his sexual orientation.”

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 65-year-old managing director previously 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.

He also told the hearing that his use of language had been influenced by US TV series The Sopranos.

Judge Gumbiti-Zimuto said the second comment did not constitute discrimination or harassment as it was a private conversation between a husband and wife and not meant to have been heard by Mr Howell.

The two-day tribunal threw out Mr Howell’s claims of constructive dismissal and breach of contract after hearing that he resigned on 28 June.

Mr Chambers has been ordered to pay damages of £700.