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Police officers repeatedly drug tested for the sole reason of being gay win discrimination case

Lily Wakefield November 29, 2019
discrimination police nsw

The officers were said to have "loose morals", supposedly justifying drug testing. (Mark Kolbe/Getty)

Four gay police officers have won a discrimination case after they were required to undergo six months of drug testing because they were “presumed to engage in drug use by reason of their homosexuality”.

According to ABC, Christopher Sheehy, Steven Rapisarda, Shane Housego and Christian McDonald said they were investigated for drug use because of the “homophobic culture” among seniors in New South Wales Police, Australia.

The investigation was started by then-commander Simon Hardman in 2015 when a fifth man tested positive for ecstasy and speed. Hardman said “further suspicion” was raised because of “close friendships” between the five men and the fact that they had visited gay bars.

Hardman lodged an official complaint against the four gay men, in which he wrote that they were “notorious for their promiscuity” and that they had “loose morals”.

The complaint added: “Drug use is thought to be fundamental in such indiscriminate sexual encounters.”

Hardman referred the men for six months of drug testing, despite admitting in the complaint “even in the absence of evidence, I retain a genuine concern the group is actively involved in recreational/illegal drug use”.

For all four men, the 2015 investigation found “no direct evidence of drug use” or “related misconduct”.

The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) has now ruled that that Hardman was “homophobic” and that the men were “presumed to engage in drug use by reason of their homosexuality”.

However the tribunal also found that, aside from Hardman’s behaviour, there was “no culture of bullying” and “harassment” in the workplace.

Sheehy, one of the complainants, told ABC he was glad the ordeal was over, but that he would be leaving his job as senior constable.

He said: “It’s overwhelming, I’m very relieved, this has been a long time coming. It’s taken a great toll on me financially and emotionally.

“It was a career that I once wanted for life, however, ultimately I didn’t feel like I was supported by my superiors.”

Lawyer Nicholas Stewart, who represented the four men, said that the officers would now be “seeking compensation for their significant financial and emotional damages.”

He added: “This decision reflects that homophobia remains alive in pockets of every workplace, and employers need to do more to protect people, who are vulnerable to harassment and discrimination.”

More: Australia, Discrimination, drug testing, gay police, New South Wales Police

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