An employment tribunal has ordered Northern Gas and Power to pay £36,707 to a former employee over allegations including constructive dismissal and harassment related to sexual orientation and post-employment victimisation.
Daniel Robson, the claimant, was subjected on a daily basis, to homophobic slurs and words such as ‘f****t’, ‘p**f’ and ‘q***r’ in the office, the report said.
Mr Robson worked in the Leeds office of Northern Gas and Power as an energy consultant/lead generator between 7th January and 14th June 2019.
The tribunal heard the claimant, during his employment, also heard comments such as ‘two men having sex is unnatural and not right’ while a team manager told him he wanted to start a ‘Straight Pride’ in retaliation for gay people rubbing Gay Pride in his face.
The employment tribunal said on 15th June 2019, after the claimant left the company, one of his colleagues received a message saying “gays and blacks and ethnics” all leaving the office was a “good cleanse”.
In making the ruling Employment Judge Rogerson said “the culture in the Leeds office was accurately described as toxic involving daily use of racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic language, which some managers and senior employees actively engaged in, treating it as acceptable banter between friends and colleagues.”
The judge also ordered the company to pay a financial penalty to the Secretary of State to the sum of £18,353.501 pursuant to section 12A Employment Tribunals Act 1996.
Daniel Robson spoke to ELN about the employment tribunal outcome: “It has been a very stressful situation. So, I am relieved that it’s over. And I am pleased with the response that the judgment had to find in my favour on all counts.”
Asked about the hardest incident he had to deal with during this dispute was the text message “discussing how my leaving the company would mean that the gays, or blacks and ethnics, leaving the office would be a good cleanse for the business.”
He also explains that the amount of money he will receive does not cover the cost of bringing the claim: “The cost of the claim was so significant. I was only 26. So I did not really have much money behind me, had a few thousand pounds.
“So a large chunk of the money that has been spent on defending the claim has come from my family. Thankfully, I am in a fortunate position. My parents had a bit of money put aside but even then the money put aside was not enough. They had to remortgage their home in order to get additional funds so that we could defend the claim.”
Listen to the interview.
Responding to the finding of the tribunal Northern Gas and Power Director, Paul Barrett, said: “Northern Gas and Power is an equal opportunities employer and very proud to have cultivated a diverse workforce. In our last report, 10% of our people identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual, compared with 2.7% as a national average. We have been recognised for our workplace culture through numerous awards and we take the job of supporting our staff very seriously.
“We strongly believe that the harassment the tribunal found to have taken place was an isolated issue and, in line with our zero-tolerance approach, all employees who took part are no longer employed.
“The matters were not brought to the attention of our human resources or senior management team until after Mr Robson had left our employment and many of the specific examples were not disclosed to us until very late in the tribunal process. In our history, we have never had any complaint of this nature before and we are confident that we are taking every measure to ensure that it does not happen again.”
When asked about the company’s announcement following the publication of the employment tribunal outcome that the incident was an ‘isolated’ one, Daniel Robson alleged: “It certainly was not an isolated incident, because it was multiple people in my office, that were being victims of harassment, not necessarily for their sexual orientation, but because of religious beliefs, ethnicity and other sort of personal factors.
“So I certainly say it was not an isolated incident with myself. There were at least three or four members of that office who were being harassed on a day-to-day basis.”
ELN has asked Northern Gas and Power for a response regarding Daniel’s claim.