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"Jolly" pub loses HR case"

BY Steve Briggs
Employment Law & HR
BG Purple

After a gap of more than 18 months the EAT has delivered only its fifth ever decision on “personal” orientation. We have to call it that to make sure that this email reaches your inbox!

Openly gay barman Charles Lisboa has won claims of sexual orientation HR and unfair dismissal against a former gay pub after he was discriminated against because of his sexuality.

The owners of the Pembroke Arms in Earl's Court, formerly the Colherne Arms and a renowned gay pub, face a large award when compensation is calculated. The EAT found that gay staff members and customers were referred to as “queens” as the management tried to “de-gay” the pub after it changed hands in December 2008.

Lisboa said he was asked to reprimand a gay couple for “petting” behaviour. The tribunal which originally heard his claim decided that the same rule would have been applied to a heterosexual couple, and, as such, was not discriminatory.

Lisboa was also instructed to put a sign outside that said: “This is not a gay pub.” He suffered depression and sleeplessness and eventually resigned and complained of sexual orientation HR and constructive dismissal in January 2008. It took him a further nine months to find a new job. Lisboa said that bosses calling people “queens” was very offensive and he didn’t know how to handle it.

The pub's owner, Realpubs, had said it was trying to attract patrons from a wider section of the community and to turn it into a gastropub. The first tribunal found that Lisboa had been discriminated against and awarded him £4,500 for injury to feelings. However, it also ruled that he had not been constructively dismissed.

The EAT overturned that decision, found that he had been discriminated against and constructively dismissed and sent the case back for compensation to be assessed by a fresh tribunal.

Cases such as these are relatively unusual, but they send a salutary warning to employers to ensure that neither they nor their employees breach HR law.

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