Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Section 12 of the Equality Act 2010 states that sexual orientation is a protected characteristic and prohibits unlawful discrimination, victimisation or harassment.

Sexual orientation discrimination covers discrimination against a worker:

  • because of his/her sexual orientation;
  • because of the sexual orientation of any other person;
  • because of a worker's perceived sexual orientation.

The protection covers discrimination against workers who are wrongly perceived to be of a particular sexual orientation, or because they are associated with a person of a particular sexual orientation. It affords protection for workers who refuse to comply with an instruction to discriminate against a lesbian or gay man.

Protection against discrimination begins when you apply for a job and continues throughout your employment. You are protected in relation to:

  • recruitment
  • terms and conditions of employment (including benefits such as pensions)
  • pay
  • employment status (eg if you are a worker or an employee)
  • training
  • promotion and transfer opportunities
  • redundancy
  • dismissal

If you work with a colleague who has strong views on your sexual orientation because of their religion, this does not mean they can bully or harass you.

If your employer asks you for details about your sexual orientation, which they may do either for monitoring purposes or as part of an equal opportunities questionnaire, you are not obliged to give this information.

There are four types of discrimination:

  • direct discrimination - where on the grounds of your sexual orientation, a person treats you less favourably than he or she would treat other people.
  • indirect discrimination - when your employer imposes a specific provision, criterion or practice which places you and other people of the same sexual orientation as you at a particular disadvantage.
  • victimisation - when you are treated less favourably than someone else because you have made a complaint or given evidence in relation to an act of discrimination.
  • harassment - unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of violating your dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive workplace environment for you.

If you believe you are being discriminated against on the ground of your sexual orientation, or you simply want more information about your rights, Ashby Cohen can help you. We specialise in employment law cases, and our years of experience as employment lawyers make us uniquely qualified to assist you with any sexual orientation issues you may have. Please contact us for an initial free telephone consultation.

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