Damages for theatre worker dubbed 'gay boy'

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The Independent Online

A theatre worker repeatedly referred to as "gay boy" has won damages for discrimination in one of the first court rulings awarding compensation under new laws protecting homosexuals at work.

A theatre worker repeatedly referred to as "gay boy" has won damages for discrimination in one of the first court rulings awarding compensation under new laws protecting homosexuals at work.

Fausto Gismondi, who worked in the box office at the Gala Theatre in Durham, said he had been the victim of harassment and bullying because of his sexual orientation. He also said he had been blamed for poor ticket sales and ignored when he arrived at work every morning.

An employment tribunal found yesterday that Mr Gismondi had been constructively dismissed from his job as well as discriminated against. The tribunal, in one of the first successful cases under regulations extending discrimination rights to gay workers, said Durham City Council's failure to take steps against the manager "ought to cause them considerable shame". The council had failed in its duty to an employee who had been bullied and harassed, said the tribunal, which heard the case in Newcastle.

The manager, Ed Tutty, 42, admitted referring to Mr Gismondi as "gay boy", but claimed it was office banter and had not been intended in a homophobic way. He was disciplined after the council concluded the comment was "inappropriate" rather than homophobic. But yesterday both the council and Mr Tutty were found to have breached the sexual orientation regulations, which came into force at the end of 2003.

Mr Gismondi said: "The tribunal's decision is a huge relief. No one should have to endure that sort of treatment at work. The council failed to do anything to stop the harassment. I want to make all employers understand that it is against the law to turn a blind eye to this sort of discrimination."

His lawyer, Jo White of Thompsons, said: "This is an important decision because it highlights the responsibilities employers have under the sexual orientation regulations. Gay men and women have the same rights to be treated equally and with respect as anyone else at work. There have been few successful cases under the regulations so far, because, as with all cases of discrimination, it is difficult to prove."

Andy Egan, the legal officer of the union Bectu, which backed Mr Gismondi's case, said: "Every worker is entitled to go about their working lives without fear of discrimination or victimisation. The treatment meted out to our member was appalling, and we are glad to have been able to seek redress for him. We hope employers try will get the message that they cannot stand by and allow bullying and harassment of gay workers; the trade unions will take action."

The tribunal will hold a further hearing to set the level of compensation.

In another case brought under the legislation, a City banker is suing HSBC for up to £5m, claiming it sacked him because he is gay. Peter Lewis, 43, a senior investment banker, launched the action against the bank after it fired him for "gross personal misconduct". It is by far the biggest case of its kind to reach the courts.