England: Sexual Orientation Discrimination

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English v Thomas Sanderson Blinds Ltd. [2008] EWCA Civ. 1421

E, a married man, had a contract of services with T for 9 years. He claimed that he had been subjected to homophobic banter over the years. It arose because a colleague had discovered that he had attended a private boarding school. In fact E was not gay and he didn’t think that his colleagues that engaged in the banter thought that he was. Nonetheless, he claimed that he had been subject to harassment on grounds of sexual orientation.

The EAT held that, on the basis of the facts established, the unwanted conduct on the part of his colleagues was not on grounds of sexual orientation as they did not think that E was gay.

The Court of Appeal held that E had been taunted as gay and it did not matter whether he was gay or not. The aim of the taunts was to insult his dignity and create a degrading and hostile environment on grounds of sexual orientation. What was required in order to establish discrimination was that someone’s orientation, real or supposed, was the basis of the harassment directed at him or her.

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