Gay man awarded €27,000 after being called a ‘f****t’ at work
A gay man who was repeatedly called a “f****t” by his work colleague has been awarded €27,000 for homophobic harassment.
The Workplace Relations Commission in Ireland heard that the man’s co-worker had described him as a “f****t” to another colleague, and said: “I better not sit beside him, or I’ll catch the gayness from him.”
He said that the harassment against him took place on a daily basis, with constant sniggering and “juvenile” stereotypes aimed at him.
This made him feel threatened and humiliated, the WRC heard.
The man said it was commonly known at the company that he is gay, and that he faced direct discrimination as a result of this.
He also stated that the harassment came from a co-worker as well as a team leader, who repeatedly laughed and sniggered to his face and made disparaging remarks about him, including comments about his social media accounts that included him and his partner.
The man alleged that this constituted repeated homophobic abuse, and that he was also discriminated against on the basis of his sexuality.
He worked as a scheduler for an installation provider and told the WRC it had been the most worried he’d ever been at work.
The man, who started working at the company in 2017, said that the harassment and homophobic abuse had taken a toll on his mental health. He was treated for depression and ended up in hospital with panic attacks.
He also noted that his own team leader would often intervene and defend him.
The WRC heard that the operations manager conducted an investigation into his complaints, with “disastrous” results, which included both him and a female co-worker who corroborated his account called “liars” and told to stop “wasting her [the operations manager’s] time”.
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The WRC found the man “very credible” and concluded that his employer had discriminated against him on the basis of his sexual orientation, and that he had been harassed.
“It has without doubt created an intense, hostile, humiliating and offensive environment for him in the workplace. It had a great burden on his physical and mental health where he was hospitalised,” the WRC adjudication officer, James Kelly, said.
A representative for the company who was at the hearing said that the office the complainant had worked in had closed down, and that it held no records of allegations or statements from the relevant people cited by the complainant.
As a result, it said it was not in a position to rebut the allegations made by the complainant.
Kelly said the €27,000 awarded was the equivalent to 18 months of gross pay, and is to be paid by the employer for the sustained distress caused to the employee.
He added that the award, given under the Employment Equalities Act, reflects the seriousness of the discrimination, the effect of it on the gay man ad the requirement that sanctions be “effective, dissuasive and proportionate”.