Firefighter sacked for calling gay colleague ‘half a man’ wins thousands in employment tribunal

Philip Staines, a firefighter who was sacked after calling his short, gay colleague "half a man", has been awarded more than £12,000.

A firefighter who was sacked after calling his short, gay colleague “half a man” has been awarded more than £12,000 by an employment tribunal.

Philip Staines was fired by North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service for breaching conduct rules by making several offensive remarks to colleagues.

The final straw came after he nicknamed fellow fireman Jonny Metcalfe “Arthur man, half a man”, while already on written warning for inappropriate language.

Staines insisted the offensive nickname was “just banter” because of Metcalfe’s short stature, and denied it was in any way a homophobic reference to his sexuality.

“I call him Arthur, Arthur man, half a man… because of his size,” he claimed. “I can’t call him Stumpy or anything else. It’s just banter. We were just laughing and joking. He came into the recreation room and I said ‘Hi Arthur.’ It’s not degrading.”

Other staff members also allegedly heard Philip Staines greeting Metcalfe with the phrase: “Now then Jonny you bent bastard,” though the allegations were later rejected by an internal investigation.

The firefighter pursued a claim for unfair dismissal and breach of contract against his former employer, and after losing his challenge in February he launched a separate claim against North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Philip Staines’ dismissal was upheld this week by employment judge Sophie Buckley, who ruled that it was “reasonable” for Metcalfe to have interpreted the comments as homophobic and taken offence.

“It appears obvious to me that ‘half a man’ might be interpreted by a gay man as an offensive comment on their sexual orientation. In my view [Philip Staines] ought also to have appreciated that,” she said.

She also found that Staines had belittled a female worker by joking to a colleague “you’ve got her well trained” when she answered the telephone.

However, she also ruled his conduct had not been so bad that he should have been dismissed without notice – despite him being on a written warning at the time.

As a result the tribunal awarded Philip Staines his notice pay, plus 10 per cent for breach of contract, plus his holiday pay, amounting to a total of £12,163.