The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 prohibit victimisation and harassment as well as other forms of discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation.
In the Regulations, ‘sexual orientation’ covers sexual orientation towards either persons of the same sex, persons of the opposite sex or persons of the same sex and of the opposite sex. It is therefore unlawful to discriminate against a straight person because he or she is straight as well as it being unlawful to discriminate against a gay man or a lesbian because he or she is homosexual, as a recent case illustrates.
Sharon Legg, a married mother of three children, worked as head of security at a gay nightclub in Bournemouth. She was sacked after a dispute with a colleague and brought a claim of unfair dismissal as well as harassment under the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations. She claimed that she had frequently been subjected to abuse because she was not a lesbian.
The Employment Tribunal (ET) awarded Mrs Legg £3,222 compensation for unfair dismissal because she had been dismissed without the statutory procedures being followed. It also awarded her £3,000 in compensation for harassment on account of the treatment she had endured because she was straight. However, the ET did not find that she was dismissed because she was heterosexual.
A spokesman for Rubyz, the owners of the nightclub, said that whilst the company accepted that Mrs Legg had been dismissed without proper procedures having been followed, it has a zero-tolerance attitude towards any kind of discrimination and is therefore considering an appeal against this decision.
Employers are reminded of the importance of ensuring they have, and follow scrupulously, policies and procedures preventing unlawful discrimination. There is no statutory limit to the amount of compensation a Tribunal can order to be paid to a person who brings a successful claim.
ACAS has useful guidance on this subject, for both employers and employees, which can be found at<a href="http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/a/8/guide_sexualO_1.pdf" style="font-size: 13px; color: rgb(144