Lesbians' hearing will set a legal precedent: Unlawful dismissal case brought under Sex Discrimination Act

AN INDUSTRIAL tribunal is to hear the case of two lesbians who claim they were unlawfully dismissed from their jobs because of their sexual relationship.

The tribunal will set a legal precedent, and is the first homosexual rights case to use the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act as the core of an argument for being unfairly sacked.

Maria O'Rourke, 28, and Simone Wallace, 20, were jointly dismissed by BG Turnkey Services last November. The women have been openly living as lesbians for two and a half years and were recognised as partners at their work. Ms O'Rourke was a quality inspection leader and Ms Wallace a production-line team leader.

The Irish-owned packing company accused Ms O'Rourke of a bad attitude to her job, with Ms Wallace accused of passing on confidential company information. Both claim they were given no warning about dismissal or about their conduct.

The first hurdle was passed in Edinburgh on Monday, when the two women were told at an initial hearing that they could pursue their claims to a full industrial tribunal under the Act.

Although the tribunal will still have to decide on the legal merits of the case, the fact that it is progressing at all under the 1975 Act is being welcomed as a crucial step forward for homosexual rights.

Michael Cashman, an actor and co-founder of the homosexual rights organisation, Stonewall, said no previous case such as this had been heard under British or European law. He said homosexuals could now use the law to defeat discrimination.

At the initial hearing, the solicitor for the two women, Stewart Watt, argued that although section 1 of the 1975 Act made no specific reference to sexuality or sexual orientation, previous cases had shown that discrimination could be proven because a respondent would have acted differently had the claimant been a man.

Kenneth Hogg, representing BG Turnkey, denied the firm had discriminated against the couple for being lesbian. He said the 1975 Act made no mention of discrimination on the grounds of sexuality, which he said made up the entire case for the women.

If gender was at issue it would be more accurate to ask whether their treatment would have been any different had they both been men in a homosexual relationship, he said.

The hearing ruled that the arguments forwarded by Mr Watt were valid because other cases had found factors relating to a woman's sex, such as pregnancy, were relevant to a sex discrimination claim. The tribunal is expected to sit late this summer.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner / Caretaker / Storeman

£15500 - £17680 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A position has become available...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Sales - SaaS B2B

£60000 - £120000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This conference call startup i...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital and print design a...

Day In a Page

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

RuPaul interview

The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

Secrets of comedy couples

What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

The best swimwear for men

From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

Mark Hix goes summer foraging

 A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

Aaron Ramsey interview

Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms