Sexual orientation discrimination; case law examples

Tags: Employment Law, Employment Tribunal, Discrimination because of sexual orientation

Leeds Pride took place in our glorious city this weekend; celebrating the diversity the LGBT community brings to our urban landscape.  Given the celebrations over the weekend, we thought it served as a timely reminder to look at discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the workplace.  

Sexual orientation is one of nine protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 and discrimination on those grounds is prohibited.  Discrimination can be:

direct - because of their sexual orientation;

indirect – a provision, criterion or practice that places those of a certain sexual orientation at a disadvantage;

harassment – subjecting someone to harassment related to their sexual orientation; or

victimisation – victimising someone because they have or intend to enforce their rights under the Equality Act 2010.

Here, we take a look at some case law examples to show you where employers (and service providers in some cases) have fallen foul of the law.

1. In Bull and another v Hall and another 2013, hotels owners were found to have discriminated against a homosexual couple in a civil partnership by refusing to allow them to stay in a room with a double bed.

2. In Lee v McArthur and Ashers Baking Company Ltd 2016, a Court in Northern Ireland found it was discriminatory for a bakery owner, who was Christian, to refuse to make a cake for a homosexual customer which includes the words “Support Gay Marriage”.

3. In Hubble v Brooks 2005, a pub owner refused to employ Mr Hubble (and his long-term partner) when he learned at interview that Mr Hubble was gay; despite Mr Hubble and his partner having the requisite experience required for the role.  This was, unsurprisingly, deemed direct discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

4. In Hegarty v The Edge (Soho) Ltd 2005, Hegarty, a heterosexual woman, was made redundant from her job in a mainly gay bar on the grounds that the owners wanted to “freshen up” the bar.  The owners subsequently hired male gay bar staff.  Hegarty was found to have been discriminated against on the grounds she was heterosexual.

5. In Ditton v C P Publishing Ltd 2006, having learnt during an interview that Mr Ditton was homosexual, his colleagues then subjected him to homophobic insults during his initial training when he commenced his employment.  Mr Ditton was dismissed after only 8 days of work and was successful in claiming direct discrimination and harassment on the grounds of his sexual orientation.

6. In English v Thomas Sanderson Ltd 2009, Mr English was subjected to homophobic insults during his employment even though he was not gay and his colleagues did not perceive him to be gay.  Mr English was successful in establishing he had been harassed on the grounds of his sexual orientation.

7. In Lisboa v Realpubs Ltd and others 2010, it was found that placing a gay employee under pressure to comply with his employer’s policy to make the pub less welcoming to gay customers was discrimination.  The employer in this case had taken various steps to re-brand the pub, including the implementation of a display board which stated, “this is not a gay pub”.

Here at SCE Solicitors, we are experts in helping businesses manage their employees.  If you have any queries about discrimination in the workplace, other staff issues or would like to discuss how we can be on hand to assist you with all your employment law needs, please contact me on 01133 50 40 30 or at

SCE Solicitors is a boutique employment law practice based in Leeds which advises clients nationwide.  Please note that the information in this blog is to provide information of general interest in a summary manner and should not be construed as individual legal advice. Readers should consult with SCE Solicitors or other professional counsel before acting on the information contained here.  

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