Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Homophobic bullying or not

At the end of last year, the Court of Appeal, by a majority, decided that a man driven out of his job by homophobic abuse was entitled to bring a claim against his employer. Up to this point, not surprising.

The key issue in the case, though, was that the victim was not homosexual, his fellow employees knew he was not and he agreed that they knew it. The 'banter', as it was described, was solely the result of his fellow employees discovering that he had attended a boarding school and lived in Brighton.

The judges were split on the issue, one refusing the case on the grounds that to do so would open, "not a Pandora's Box, but a Pandora's attic." The other two felt that the issue as to whether the tormentors knew or thought he was really homosexual was irrelevant.

If he had been gay, but they had not known, and they had then tormented him in ignorance, the firm would still have been answerable under the regulations.

The decision may be taken to the House of Lords, but it would be as well to ensure that 'dignity at work' and antibullying policies take this decision into account.

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