Sexual Orientation Discrimination

We frequently receive enquiries from employees who have been subject to sexual orientation discrimination or harassment. We would always advise any person who is subjected to those types of behaviours to take independent legal advice. Of course, we hope they would contact us at Lincs Law Employment Solicitors. However, if you are considering raising your own complaint or representing yourself at the Employment Tribunal, we set out below some general guidance.

Who is protected from Sexual Orientation Discrimination or Harassment?

In the employment sphere employees, workers, job applicants, trainees, Company Directors etc are protected from sexual orientation discrimination or harassment by their employer. All aspects of the relationship are covered. For example, an employee who is discriminated against in the recruitment process would be able to bring a claim against their prospective employer even if they never worked a day for that business.

How do you know if you have suffered Sexual Orientation Discrimination or Harassment?

The Equality Act 2010 sets out various ways in which an employer’s treatment of a person because of their sexual orientation (or perceived sexual orientation) is unlawful. Briefly, it is likely you have suffered sexual orientation discrimination or harassment if any of the following have occurred:

    • Direct Discrimination

      This is where you have been treated less favourably because of your sexual orientation than someone of a different sexual orientation would have been treated.

    • Indirect Discrimination

      This is where the employer has a policy, procedure or similar which appears to apply to everyone but has a detrimental impact upon people with a particular sexual orientation.

    • Harassment

      This is where a person suffers unwanted conduct which causes a distressing, humiliating or offensive environment for them. For example, jokes and derogatory comments by colleagues related to sexual orientation.

    • Sexual Harassment

      This is unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity or creating for them an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. For example, comments about what a person is wearing, speculation about their personal relationships, invasion of personal space, unnecessary touching etc can be sexual harassment.

      This type of harassment could also be unfavourable treatment suffered because a refusal to agree to a relationship with the harasser. For example, bullying at work following the refusal to engage in a personal relationship would be sexual harassment.

    • Victimisation

      This is where an employee raises a complaint themselves or supports another doing so and suffers a “detriment” as a consequence. A detriment could be a reduction in hours, a refusal to give a pay rise, a lost promotion opportunity, indeed anything which has a negative impact on that person’s work or employment.

If you believe you are suffering Sexual Orientation Discrimination or Harassment what action should you take?

The Employment Tribunal will expect you to raise your concerns with your employer. This will usually be done through your employer’s grievance procedure. Please see the information available on this website about how to raise a grievance. Any evidence you can gather to assist in your grievance will be extremely helpful. If the matter can be resolved at that stage, then all to the good.

If your employer continues to discriminate against you because of your gender or the sexual harassment has not been properly dealt with, you may have to consider submitting a claim to the Employment Tribunal. In order to do so, you will first need to begin a process called ACAS Early Conciliation. This is a compulsory procedure where an ACAS conciliator acts as a go between to try and resolve the dispute.

What are the Time Limits for Sexual Orientation Discrimination claims?

You will need to begin the ACAS Early Conciliation process within three months less one day from the last act of discrimination. The time limit for submitting your Employment Tribunal claim will depend upon the dates of your ACAS Early Conciliation. However, it is important that you begin the ACAS Early Conciliation process within the three-month deadline as to fail to do so may render your claim out of time.

Let Lincs Law Employment Solicitors Help You

If you believe you are suffering sexual orientation discrimination or harassment at work, please ring for a free, no obligation, telephone consultation on 01522 440512 or use the contact information on this website.