Landmark case allows discrimination claim based on gestures alone

General - Interesting Topics

A gay man has been awarded £7,500 damages in a discrimination claim after a man made homophobic gestures towards him. This case is unusual due to the fact it is based on gestures rather than words spoken; it is thought to be one of only a small number of legal cases brought against a service provider for the homophobic actions of its staff.

The issues began when the claimant, named only as Tim, returned a lock to his local locksmiths, Taylor Edwards. There was a minor disagreement with Mr Edwards, the man serving him, and when Tim left the shop Mr Edwards blew him a sarcastic kiss.

For months after, whenever Tim walked past the shop he was subject to homophobic gestures from Mr Edwards. Tim said, “he would wink at me, and pose with a limp wrist, kiss at me and what I would class as a vile, vulgar homophobic gesture as well, inferring oral sex with a male”.

Tim brought an action against Taylor Edwards under the Equality Act, he claimed direct discrimination by the business. Section 29 of the Equality Act 2010 prevents anyone supplying goods and services e.g hairdressers, hotels, health clubs from discriminating against customers on a variety of different grounds, such as race, religion, disability and sexual orientation.

Although Mr Edwards was technically on his break at the time of the incidents the court deemed him to be acting in the course of employment and therefore liable. This is the first time the court has said that the discrimination on the part of businesses can be by gestures only, and that there is no need for any words to be spoken. Barrister Catherine Casserley added, “the case shows that the Equality Act 2010 can protect people against acts of discrimination that occurred even after they stop being customers of the business in question.”

This decision shows times are changing, it is important to be aware that employers are responsible for the behaviour of their workforce in both words and gestures.  It is hoped that from this decision members of the public will think twice about their actions now that words are no longer necessary to prove discrimination.

Tim commented after the hearing, “I am obviously delighted with the outcome of my case at Trial. I issued this case to prevent future incidences of discrimination and/or homophobia occurring”.

It is important to know your rights in the Equality Act 2010, if you need any advice as an employer or employee then please don’t hesitate to contact us.

All information is correct on the date of posting.