Ask the Lawyer: My boss won’t do anything about homophobic harassment – what can I do?

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PinkNews brings you the second in a series of features which sees your real questions answered by leading lawyers at Simpson Millar.

The second question comes from a reader who thinks she is being harassed by colleagues at work who make homophobic jokes and question why she doesn’t have a boyfriend.


The reader asked: “I’m a lesbian and I’m pretty sure everyone at works knows this but sometimes my colleagues ask me why I don’t have a boyfriend – in quite a nasty way.

“They also make jokes that I think sound pretty homophobic. I spoke to my manager about it and she said that I need to grow a thicker skin and ignore them. Surely my employer must do more?”

A Simpson Millar lawyer answers, saying: “Any kind of homophobic harassment is unacceptable in the workplace and being treated unfavourably by colleagues because of your sexual orientation is unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. The treatment from colleagues you describe would entitle you to pursue claims in respect of unlawful harassment, discrimination, and victimisation (because of sexual orientation) in the Employment Tribunal.

“Unfortunately, such incidents are all too common. LGBT+ workers often experience harassment at work, including being mocked, ignored or ‘sent to Coventry’, or find themselves the focus of unwanted ridicule because of their sexual orientation. It’s unsurprising that many LGBT+ workers decide not to come out at work.”

They continue: “Your manager ought not to have dismissed your concerns; an employer who ignores a complaint of harassment or responds, as your manager did, by suggesting that you ‘grow a thicker skin’ could face claims of harassment, discrimination, and victimisation in the Employment Tribunal.

“A good employer will not allow harassment in the workplace to go unchecked. Managers who recognise and implement policies that address homophobia and transphobia, encourage inclusion and actively promote diversity in the workplace will see an improvement in staff morale and with it, productivity.

“There are some options open to you at this time, to discuss these further please contact either myself or one of our Employment Law solicitors on 0800 260 5005.”

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Unfortunately, we will not be able to answer all questions that are sent in and Simpson Millar is only able to give advice that relates to the law in England and Wales.

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