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Tribunal told about homophobia at BMW showroom

Gemma Pritchard February 19, 2008
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A gay salesman was forced to leave his job at a luxury car dealership after colleagues repeatedly made homophobic comments towards him, a tribunal heard yesterday.

Ben Hamilton, 26, claims his workmates at a BMW showroom branded him “the nice poof”, “faggot” and “bender Ben.”

He told the hearing he was also banned from wearing pink clothing to work.

According to the Daily Mail Mr Hamilton said a manager told him: “It must be great to be gay. Does it mean you and your fella can go out, have a few beers, have a curry, beat each other up and still get laid?”

He said a colleague also mocked him for going to see an Elton John concert.

When he said the show was “crap”, the colleague allegedly replied: “But surely you boys are used to that, being in the same club. Come on, Ben, crap is an occupational hazard for you boys.”

Mr Hamilton, who has been openly gay since he was 15, is claiming unlawful discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. He also claims he was constructively dismissed.

The tribunal heard that Mr Hamilton was initially employed at Scotthall BMW in Chandler’s Ford, Hants, from December 2004 as a salesman.

The Daily Mail reported yesterday that he told the hearing: “Work became dramatically more unpleasant and less successful for me from that point on.

“It was soon painfully clear gay men were regarded as fair game for abuse, bullying and harassment because of their sexuality.

“I had always been open about my sexuality, yet never expected to be treated differently because of it.

“Despite taking great pride in my appearance I was regularly criticised, belittled and humiliated about it.

“I believe that was due to my sexuality. For example, I was singled out to ensure my appearance did not conform in any way to the sexual stereotyping of a gay man.

“I was strongly discouraged from wearing anything pink because when I did I attracted comments such as ‘sweetheart, what on earth are you wearing’ and ‘hello sweety’.

“Mark Hannon (a manager) said ‘yahoo sweety, oh you look smashing’, tongue-in-cheek in a camp voice and with a silly wave.

“Others wore pink clothing without attracting such comments or jibes. I believe that was because they were not gay.

“I was even told in a sales meeting to go home and change my clothes. I was wearing a pink shirt and pink tie with a black suit.

“At least 10 other people were there. I had no choice and did what I was told. I went home and changed into a white shirt and a blue tie. I felt humiliated.”

Mr Hamilton, of Eastleigh, Hants, said he grew a ‘discreet’ beard but was told he must shave it off by his bosses.

“My hair is light brown, not ginger. Since then, I was regularly greeted by Mark Hannon and another colleague with ‘all right Noel – Deal or No Deal?’

“This could be up to 30 times a day in front of work colleagues and mostly on the sales floor.”

He added: “When you’re the victim you just cannot help feeling degraded.

“It was veiled hostility and homophobia aimed at belittling and humiliating me about my sexuality – something I cannot change.

“I couldn’t really win. When I objected I was instantly made out to be bolshy and a bad sport.”

He said that colleagues who went on anti-discrimination training did not take the sessions seriously.

The tribunal heard that in the summer of 2006 Mr Hamilton visited his GP. He was diagnosed as suffering from severe stress symptoms and was signed off sick. In October that year he resigned from his job.

The employment tribunal in Southampton, Hants, continues.

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