Gay restaurant workers awarded £120,000 compensation after relentless homophobic bullying from boss

An outside photo of Piatto restaurant in Battersea, south London

Gay restaurant staff Tim Jeurninck and his husband Marco Scatena have been awarded more than £120,000 after being “bullied for months on end” by their homophobic bosses. 

An employment tribunal in south London heard the pair were subjected to abuse including “constant slurs” and relentless bullying during their time working at Piatto on Battersea Park Road in London. 

After resigning from the toxic workplace, the couple sued the London eatery for sexual orientation discrimination, with the panel ruling in their favour. 

Jeurninck, who was a waiter, and Scatena – who part-owned the business and was a restaurant manager, were awarded £41,732 and £83,102 in compensation respectively.

The panel found directors had tried to force Scatena out of business, with “more than enough evidence” to suggest it was due to him being gay. 

Employment judge Alexander Green ruled that alongside being wrongfully dismissed the couple had been directly discriminated against due to their sexuality. 

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She said: “Mr Jeurninck and Mr Scatena have established they suffered from unwanted conduct as a result of their sexual orientation, which had the purpose of violating their dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.

“They were quite clearly deeply offended and threatened by the behaviour. They have established that they were harassed because of their sexual orientation.”

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The couple months of homophobic bullying

Before ruling in the couple’s favour, the panel heard of how director Vincenzo Cugno Garrano had spoken with Scatena about how the two Italian nationals should open a restaurant together.

Following this Scatena invested “all of his personal money”, and multiple loans, into the business so he could be a 30 per cent shareholder. 

The restaurant opened in January 2018 and despite being one of four directors, the panel heard that Scatena never received a dividend payment. 

Jeurninck and his husband Scatena, who were married in 2017, both began working at the Italian eatery in January 2018. 

However, between June and September of that year, the panel heard that the couple were “on the receiving end” of homophobic “name-calling”. 

One incident saw one of the other directors, Fabio Corona, scream for Jeurninck, calling him “a waitress” while vindictively laughing. 

Jeurninck protested at being called a waitress which resulted in Corona’s friend calling him a “f*****g f*****t” in Italian and adding: “oh your waitress is very rude”.

Cugno Garrano continued to call Jeurninck “any kind of derogatory term” in Italian that would attack his sexual orientation. 

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By July of that same year, Jeurninck shared that “threats, insinuations and mental abuse” continues as Cugno Garrano would scream at him for various reasons.

In one incident, Cugno Garrano screamed “an entire monologue” at Jeurninck and told him his family in Italy “were the Mafia”, suggesting that they “could harm” his husband’s family. 

Cugno Garrano also made a hand gesture “indicating that he would be killed”.

Other incidents include Cugno Garrano presenting a cleaned glass and saying: “I thought you people (gay people) knew how to clean better.”

Jeurninck responded: “I am a real man unlike you. I won’t have a little f*****t talk to me like this”, and spat at him.

A colleague told the panel she had heard Cugno Garrano speaking “exclusively” in Italian in a bid to exclude Jeurninck, who is Dutch. 

She said Cugno Garrano constantly referred to him as a “f*****t” and other homophobic slurs.

At the directors’ meeting, they called Jeurninck to bring them drinks and again called him a “waitress”.  He once again protested, but was laughed at and called a “f*****g f*****t”.

The tribunal heard of a WhatsApp conversation sent by Cugno Garrano in September 2018 to Scatena. 

It was a chat between directors excluding him, but Scatena was “understandably very upset” at the “offensive” messages which included “threats of violence and homophobic statements”.  

In the messages he was accused of being “stupid and lazy” and of stealing money from the till – which the tribunal ruled there was no proof of. 

Director Alessandro Spina wrote a text saying “as soon as we find cover, we need to speed up the process to kick him out”.

He went on to suggest setting up a “nice trap” by putting money in the till. Scatena shared that these messages made him panic and caused a “severe anxiety” attack. 

Due to this, Scatena was forced to go on sick leave, which he wasn’t paid for. 

Jeurninck resigned in December 2018 and claimed he hadn’t been paid since March of that year. 

Scatena quit in April 2019 and said he’d been “bullied for months on end”.

Judge Green responded to Scatena’s claim and said: “We believe there was a sustained campaign that was motivated by homophobic behaviour to force him out of the business.

“There are two reasons why Piatta were trying to force him out. Either it was because they did not like him or it was because he was a gay man.

“We have seen more than enough evidence to support the latter in terms of offensive and sustained homophobic behaviour. It would be perverse to find otherwise.”

The total amounts awarded to the couple include £28,000 to Jeurninck for injury to feelings caused by discrimination and £36,000 to Scatena for injury to feelings.

According to Google, the restaurant is now permanently closed.

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