A Belfast dock worker sacked after reacting to homophobic abuse in his job has been awarded £45,000 in compensation – although his employer, Stena Line, is to appeal.

An industrial tribunal found Martin Sheil, 51, had been unfairly dismissed by Stena Line Irish Sea Ferries Ltd.

It also ruled he had been the victim of discrimination and harassment at work on the grounds of sexual orientation.

The company had “adopted a far too passive approach to unpleasant banter”, the tribunal said.

Stena Line is appealing against the ruling.

Mr Sheil brought the case arguing he had been unfairly dismissed following an incident involving himself and a colleague who had been taking part in homophobic abuse.

The tribunal found the company had failed to investigate Mr Sheil’s allegations, and had not considered whether these were mitigating circumstances.

Awarding £37,500 of the total amount for unfair dismissal, the tribunal said “the flaws in the investigatory and disciplinary procedure render the dismissal substantively unfair”.

Mr Sheil was supported by the Northern Ireland Equality Commission in bringing his case.

He said: “This has been a difficult period in my life. My job at Stena was very important to me and I worked hard to keep my private life and work life separate.

“I endured months of abuse in silence. The reason I took this case was to try and make sure that others don’t have to go through this.

“I am relieved this process is over and that the tribunal has ruled on the kind of the harassment I suffered.

“I have experienced a rough couple of years and I am now looking forward to a fresh start and just getting on with my life.”

The tribunal panel had considered that Mr Sheil had contributed partly to his own dismissal by deciding to take action on the abuse himself, rather than reporting it to management. Because of this, his award was reduced by 10%.

There was also a 20% reduction to reflect the panel’s estimate of the chances to Mr Sheil being dismissed fairly. It then awarded £37,500 to Mr Sheil for his unfair dismissal and £7,500 for harassment at work.

A Stena Line spokesman said the company was disappointed by the tribunal’s decision.

“Stena Line has lodged an appeal which is scheduled to take place in the Court of Appeal in September 2014,” he said.