Gay aerospace engineer wins £175,000 payout after his ‘worst nightmares’ about coming out at work came true
An engineer won an employment tribunal case after he suffered harassment and discrimination at work while looking to start a family with his husband.
Peter Allen, who has worked in engineering from age 16, joined aerospace component manufacturer Paradigm Precision in 2012 as a quality manager and rose through the company over six years.
The married 41-year-old explained to PinkNews that he was in line to take over as general manager of the company’s UK site in Burnley — but things went awry when he came out at work in 2018 and made enquiries into adoption leave.
“I’d started to come out to select people in my team, as well as the HR director,” he said. “I confided that we had started to look into adoption. That’s when everything changed.
“They felt they couldn’t have a general manager where I was in a position where I was going to be off for 12 months with parental leave.”
The engineer continued: “A heterosexual couple thinking of starting a family would have just never have been in the same situation that I was. I was forced to choose between whether we become parents or whether I had a job, which is ultimately what it came down to.”
Engineer faced ‘whirlwind of torment’ after coming out at work.
After he was passed over for promotion and his marriage to a man became common knowledge, Allen faced a string of homophobic incidents — including derogatory emails and “limp-wristed hand gestures” from colleagues.
He said: “I’d taken a leap of faith to come out at work, and all this horribleness was evolving in front of me. It was almost as if my worst nightmares about coming out at work were happening. These were senior managers, people above me, these weren’t people who were part of my team.”
He continued: “I was in a whirlwind of torment, really. I was getting these emails that were inappropriate, there were post-it notes, all of these things were happening around this time. I felt devastated, because [the company] weren’t backing me up on things that were happening.
“I was in the position of ‘what the hell do I do?’. I’d gone from being quite a senior manager in that business to being excluded and isolated. It’s quite sad, because I did have a good career. I was devastated at the time. I wanted just to get out of there.”
I wanted to hold them accountable for their actions
Allen eventually did leave the company and decided to pursue legal action for harassment and unfair dismissal.
He said: “When I was looking for other jobs it was always in the back of my mind, about how the company would be with me. Can I be as open as I’ve built myself up to be?
“I spoke to solicitors and family and my friends, but I didn’t know the task that I was going to be undertaking [with the legal challenge]. It was so daunting, but it was a fight that I wanted to take on.
“I was fortunate enough that I did have insurance company backing [to cover the court costs]. But I felt it wasn’t just about me, it was about holding them accountable for their actions. I felt like it was my duty to do that.”
The case hung over Allen for two years, but in a decision last month, Manchester employment tribunal judge Mark Leach affirmed that the engineer had been “subject to harassment related to sexual orientation” and was passed over for promotions “because he sought to take additional adoption leave.”
He was awarded a total of £174,645, including £96,645 for breaches of the Equality Act and £23,873 for unfair dismissal.
Employment tribunal judgment has helped bring some closure.
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Allen said: “I was elated. I don’t think it’s fully sunk in yet, but I’m just happy that I put faith in the judicial system.
“Obviously I believe very strongly about it because I lived it and it happened to me, but for it to be laid out in court the way that it was… it was the right decision, and I’m just so happy it was settled.
“For a long time, you doubt yourself and what’s happening. Did I take that in the right context, that kind of thing? I was able to get closure on my situation.”
He added: “What I want to do with it now, because it will still be happening out there, is help companies to wake up and take these things seriously, and be more diverse and inclusive.
“I want to use what happened to me to help others where I can. I’ve now got that confidence, that I can talk about the situation. There’s a lot of good that’s coming out of this.
“I think it’s important within a business to know that there are LGBT+ people, because that encourages others to be themselves and be open. I’ve started attending events with InterEngineering, which promotes LGBT+ within engineering. It’s supported by the bigger companies, but with smaller-to-medium companies, it’s not getting that support. I want to use this to promote those initiatives.”
PinkNews has approached Paradigm Precision for comment on the tribunal judgment.
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