Gay banker's sexuality not the reason for his dismissal

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The Independent Online

A gay bank executive was not sacked because of his sexuality, an employment tribunal ruled yesterday.

But it did find HSBC guilty on four other counts of "unlawful discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation" in the way his dismissal was handled.

Peter Lewis, 45, was dismissed as global head of equity trading at the bank after he was accused of masturbating in a gym shower cubicle next to another employee.

Following a hearing earlier this year, Stratford employment tribunal concluded that there had been "less favourable treatment on the grounds of sexual orientation".

However, it added: "The decision to dismiss was not in fact influenced by the sexual orientation of [Mr Lewis]. The decision to dismiss is wholly attributable to a genuine and legitimate conclusion that [he] was guilty of the gross misconduct alleged."

The tribunal made no finding on what Mr Lewis was alleged to have done in the bank's gym. Mr Lewis disputes the claim.

It found that Natalie Hattrell, a human resources manager at HSBC who investigated the complaint against him, treated him less favourably on the grounds of sexual orientation, and had a "closed mind" on the subject of his guilt.

In two other counts, it found the subsequent suspension of Mr Lewis and the requirement to attend an investigative interview were discriminatory as they were the consequence of the "discriminatory opinions" produced by Ms Hattrell.

Fourthly, the inclusion of a separate "hearsay" allegation, which was "based upon flimsy evidence and salacious in its effect", was also discriminatory. It was a claim that another employee had seen Mr Lewis in the steam room "in a highly excited state".

The tribunal heard that he had been working in the City since 1983 and was contacted by HSBC in September 2003 to be responsible for all of its equity and equity derivative trading around the world, leading a team of 300.

The position put him in charge of a budget of several hundred million pounds and he was guaranteed a pay packet of £1.6m for his first two years.

Mr Lewis, who has been in a monogamous gay relationship for 10 years, left his previous employers in June 2004 and HSBC sent out a press release announcing his high-profile appointment. He began working for the bank in September of that year.